MANILA, PHILIPPINES—In our well-intended desire to send fully-funded, relationally connected, culturally sensitive, professionally trained, church planters and campus missionaries, I sometimes wonder if we have made ministry too easy. Lifting heavy weight builds muscles. If leaders don’t learn to carry weight, they will never develop the spiritual muscles necessary for ministry.
I have seen too many church planters and missionaries quit because of the heavy weight of ministry. They simply don’t have the strength to handle relational conflict, spiritual oppression, or financial lack.
Others don’t quit, they never really start. The idea of hard work keeps them out of the game. If you are looking for a 40-hour workweek, where you can clock in and clock out at predetermined hours, then I suggest you stay far away from church planting and campus ministry.
While reading Matthew 14 this morning, I felt burdened to pray for my friends in ministry who are sacrificially carrying the weight of ministry, in spite of personal pain.
Here’s my summary of Matthew 14. John the Baptist was jailed and brutally beheaded for drawing moral lines in an immoral culture. The disciples told Jesus that his cousin and close friend had been executed. “When Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.” The crowds didn’t care that Jesus wanted to be alone. They were only concerned about their own needs. Despite his personal pain and grief, Jesus responded to the crowds with compassion. He fed 5,000 with miracle food, he healed many, then he walked on water in an attempt to get that alone time he so desperately needed. But when he got to the other side of the lake, there was another crowd that only cared about their own needs. Again, Jesus put aside his personal pain and ministered to the needs of the crowd.
Doing ministry requires that we get past our feelings, circumstances, hurts, burdens, and pain so we can pour out God’s word and God’s grace to others. In other words, self-denial is a non-negotiable essential of ministry.
Everyone wants to do the work of the ministry. Few want to carry the weight of the ministry. The work of the ministry is exciting. The weight of the ministry is excruciating. The work of the ministry produces great testimonies on stage that are applauded by crowds. The weight of the ministry presses us to our knees. The work of the ministry makes us want to keep going. The weight of the ministry sometimes makes us want to quit.
We diligently train candidates to do the work of the ministry, but not to carry the weight of the ministry. We give them strategies, tools, and funding, but they often lack spiritual depth, character, and conviction to keep going no matter how difficult.
The bad news: the weight of the ministry is heavy.
The good news: lifting weight builds muscles, and as we build muscles, what seemed heavy will eventually seem light.
The best news: Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and you will find rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.”
Perhaps the heavy weight of ministry is divinely designed to push us to Jesus.
Here’s an idea. Next time the weight of ministry is so heavy you want to quit, rather than quitting, run to Jesus, take his yoke, and let him do the heavy lifting.