Updated: May 6
What are the pitfalls we need to be aware of when we feel discouraged in ministry?
Ministry is hard. Making disciples is a long process wrought with failure, setbacks and seasons with no visible fruit. When the going gets tough, it can be tempting to throw in the towel, but don’t give up and don’t worry. You're not alone in this. In today’s mini blog, we’re going to briefly touch on three counterproductive habits we can fall into when ministry gets tough.
We cheat on diets, we cheat on workouts and we can cheat in ministry too. When we feel deflated in ministry, like we can’t reach the bar that we've set, sometimes we simply decide to lower it.
We might say, “I'll just plan one engagement this month with people who don't know Jesus instead of doing two or three a week,” or we may do something that we know is easier but won’t produce as much fruit as a different activity.
While making attainable goals is certainly important, if we keep lowering the bar we'll never reach the goals we set in the first place.
What if it's too late to even set the bar lower? Maybe it's been a month and we haven't done our prayer calendar, attended our DMC meetings, or kept up with engaging nonbelievers like we committed to do.
Anyone who has been here can relate with the shame that comes with failing to do something we said we would do.
At this point, a common pitfall is choosing to fabricate results or share half truths and excuses that help us save face.
None of us wants to look bad or let people down, but what’s the point of fooling people into thinking we’re good when we know we aren’t being obedient to God? We become hypocrites and, while we may fool ourselves and others for a time, we’ll never fool Him.
Our shame can also lead us to isolate and hide away from God, our DMC and even nonbelievers.
Maybe we feel like we’ve been pretending too long and there’s no way to fess up without unwanted consequences, or we think that the lack of fruit in our ministry is tied to some personal sin that disqualifies us from making disciples.
Whatever it is that keeps us hiding, the enemy loves it when we disconnect. We get caught in this slippery slope that holds us captive to a relentless cycle of shame, doubt and discouragement and leaves us questioning our purpose and identity.
As a perfectionist and an introvert, I spend a lot of time in my head and am no stranger to crises of identity and purpose when it comes to disciple making. I often feel like my efforts aren’t good enough and I’m too far behind to catch up. It can be so easy for me to justify shutting out the world; however, the moment I feel like isolating and handling things on my own is exactly the moment I need community and accountability the most.
The same goes for all of us.
What Can We Do Instead?
Cheating and taking shortcuts in our ministry, pretending we’re doing better than we are, and isolating ourselves out of shame and discouragement may make us feel better for a time. We may think we’re buying the time we need in order to get things together, but the truth is all of these responses are pitfalls that the enemy uses to corrupt and choke our disciple making.
All of us will face discouragement, fall short of our goals and backslide sooner or later, but when those times come we don’t need to cheat, lie or hide.
We can and should turn our gracious and merciful Heavenly Father who always knows exactly what we’re feeling and experiencing. He accepts us unconditionally and provides the fruit we see, not because we deserve it, but because He is good and has mercifully appointed good works for us to abound in.
And we should turn to our brothers and sisters who are on this journey with us so that we can be encouraged and exhorted to push forward in God’s strength, not our own.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. — Galatians 6:9
We were never meant to walk this path alone.