Ministry: Your Labor of Love
by Ken Charlton
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29 ESV
Matthew 11:28029 (ESV)
Ministry is arguably the best “work” one can do. Whether you find yourself in a paid vocational ministry or volunteer your time without financial compensation does not impact this truth. To be used in any capacity to bring people closer to Jesus is one of the most rewarding endeavors in life. With that being stated, we also recognize the reality that ministry can be uniquely difficult, demanding, and exhausting.
If this crosses your life today and finds you discouraged in ministry, I write this for your consideration. I hope it will cause you reason for pause, and ultimately encourage you. I send this with prayers for those who read this who are wounded or weary in the Lord’s service.
Sooner or later, almost everyone in ministry is going to experience seasons of frustration and feelings of defeat. Seasons that feel fruitless and dry; seasons of loss in an area that we had prayerfully endeavored to make an area of growth.
In those times, it is important to remember Who we serve, and how His Ministry was perceived. You likely remind those around you that Jesus experienced the same heartaches and temptations they do, in an effort to give comfort and reassurance that He understands where they are. Have you considered that this is true for you as well? After all, Jesus is your High Priest too! (Hebrews 4:14-16)
So what secret ministry struggles are on your heart today?
Have you ever been questioned about the type of person you are reaching out to? Jesus ran into this. His disciples struggled when they saw Him talking to the woman at the well in John 4:27. Simon questioned why Jesus would allow a sinful woman to touch him in Luke 7:39. And self-righteous eyes rolled when Jesus invested in Zacchaeus in Luke 19:7.
Ever been criticized for how you use resources? Jesus was too. When a woman used costly Nard to anoint Him, those who looked on called the worship a waste, and were critical that Jesus would allow such. (Mark 14:3-9)
Ever grow weary of reaching out to others only to see little or no response? Jesus knew the pangs that come from the desire for people to repent and follow, only to see their apathy. (Matthew 23:37)
Have you experienced frustration over those who should understand… but (still) don’t? (Matthew 16:5-12) Ever have people who are critical of your ministry efforts? (Matthew 12:9-14) Ever feel all alone? (Matthew 27:46) Ever have others criticize a ministry because you are not seeing the numerical growth they think represents a healthy ministry? (John 6:65-69)
I do not want to excuse away the legitimate need for healthy self-evaluation, nor is all criticism cruel or toxic. We need to be intentional about giving our best while demonstrating a strong work ethic and diligence. Don’t let me cover an area in grace where discomfort is appropriate, for if I am doing so I am doing you a disservice (James 3:1)
But in my experience, there are situations we give the best God can give through us, and we are told it’s not good enough – sometimes we are told this by others, and sometimes we tell this to ourselves. Unlike Jesus, there are moments we will fall short. But when we stand accused of the same ministry shortcomings Jesus was, we are in good company. I would rather be declared a failure alongside Jesus than a success anywhere without Him! And indeed, one can appear “successful” but leave Jesus out of the ministry plan. What a sad thing when this occurs.
So what do we do?
First, remember God loves you, not just those you minister to. He sent His Son for you too! Center your life on Him. (Romans 5:6-8)
Second, Cast your anxieties on Him. I know this can be easier said than done. And for some, to cast off the stress of ministry may seem impossible, or even seem akin to uncaring. But Jesus constantly got away from the crowds to be alone and pray. You must do the same. Jesus wants you to intentionally cast your anxiety on Him. I Peter 5:7 speaks about casting our anxieties on Jesus; the word translated as “Cast” or “Casting” carries with it the idea of “continue – to – cast.” Ministry anxieties continue to come back to keep you awake at night? Keep on casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Finally, when ministry life is overwhelming, return to the greatest commandment. As Jesus defined it, that means be sure you are loving God with all you’ve got. And then love His people. (Matthew 22:34-40). Jesus is the church growth expert we should be listening to the most, and this is His instruction on what is most important.
The work you do for the Lord is important… and you are important to the Lord! May God bless your ministry and speak encouragement into your heart through His Word today.
About the author:
Ken Charlton is a follower of Jesus Christ who grew up in the steel mill country of Northeast Ohio. Ken is a graduate of Kentucky Christian College, and has 23 years of ministry experience, serving in youth ministry, pastoral ministry, and preaching ministry, both full time and bi-vocationally. In 2017, he and his wife Erica, and three children, Kaleb, Kaelyn, and Joshua, moved from southern Kentucky to Northern Indiana to help on the family farm, where Ken continues to seek to scatter seed — corn, soybean, and the gospel.