All the Duties of Your Ministry (audio)
In Paul’s charge to Timothy in II Timothy 4, Paul tells Timothy to “discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
At ordinations and installation services, I often hear this read with an inflection that implies a concern that the pastor might not be faithful or diligent in ministry.
That is a message that some pastors need to hear, of course. Laziness can be a problem for pastors. But I think we also need to hear this charge with a different emphasis: “discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
Ministry stress and imbalance often comes when we try to do everybody else’s’ ministry as well as our own. We all understand the doctrine of spiritual gifts and callings, but as pastors we are prone to feel the expectation that we should be willing and able to do all parts of ministry, and do them well.
This view is harmful to both pastor and people. It’s harmful to the pastor, forcing him to constantly do ministry that he is neither gifted for nor called to do. It’s harmful to the congregation, leaving them with the sense that they can avoid serving because “we pay the pastor to do that,” and the idea that church work is best left to the pro’s.
I am completely hopeless when faced with a room full of Jr. High students. It’s not that I don’t care about them, I just have no ability to connect with them in a classroom setting. Because I was the pastor, I’ve given in a few times to the “somebody’s gotta do it, and you’re here” motivation and taught Jr. High classes. They’ve suffered and I’ve suffered every time. I do many things well, but not this.
Early in ministry, my wife, Bev, realized she was burning out in church work. When she backed up and did an assessment, she discovered that she had taken on nine different ministry roles in the church, ranging from very minor to very major. It happened very innocently. She saw a need, and wanting to be a good pastor’s wife, she stepped in. Most of the ministries were outside her gifts and callings, and they had begun to make church life a burden rather than a joy. She stepped away from a number of the jobs she wasn’t gifted for and discovered that each one of them had someone willing and able to take it on.
I’m not a crackerjack administrator. I’d like to be. I’ve read the books, attended the conferences, made the lists and otherwise tried to overcome my weaknesses, …but I’m still a mediocre administrator in my best days, and a disaster in the bad days.
I don’t like to reveal my weaknesses in ministry, so I’ve been too slow to ask for help and too reluctant to just say “No” to requests or demands that I commit to ministry outside my gifts and calling. But I’ve learned that when I step outside doing “my” ministry, everyone loses.
If God wants it done, He has gifted somebody to do it. If it isn’t you, all you’re doing by stepping into the gap is holding back someone else’s service to God.
Of course, there are times we all need to step in during an emergency and fill the gap. When the Junior High teacher doesn’t show up and the kids are starting to gather in the Sunday School room, I will step in. But I won’t say “Yes” to taking on the next six months of teaching.
Pastors, live by the standards you raise for your congregation. Discern your gifts and callings, then focus there. Operate out of your strengths. In the process, help your people learn to operate out of their gifts and callings.