Ups and Downs of Ministry

Remember when you started your ministry? Fresh from Bible college your dreams were high and your goals were worthy. You had notebooks full of ideas. You were a fountain of enthusiasm. You were going to pour your  life into the lives of others and, with God’s help, you were going to make a difference!

You knew your ministry might be small at first, but it would grow a little each year. You would be faithful. God would bless. Slowly your work would build to a peak and then you would retire or perhaps just move on to build another ministry.

After years of ministry, however, you found your work didn’t resemble the steady rise of a mountain as much as it did a roller coaster with continual ups and downs. The novelty wore off and you wondered why you were such a failure. In the dark of night, when you’re trying to sleep Satan whispered, “Why doesn’t God bless your ministry?”  Maybe you even wanted to give up.

It’s possible that who you are and what you are doing is causing your ministry to fail. You may need to change. But so often ups and downs are just part of ministry. We all see the high profile churches that are bursting their seams and we want to know their secrets. Comparison can rob us of our confidence and our joy.  The truth is, around the world we see some mission fields that seem to be wildly productive. Others seem to struggle no matter how faithfully the missionary serves.

Maynard Belt tells of a mission society who, in 1853, discussed closing a station in Ongole, India, because only ten people had been won to Christ in fifteen years. “At that time more than 167 languages were spoken in that area.  This area had been called the “Lone Star” church of India.  Only two men on the mission board pleaded not to abandon the continued support of this work.” But in time the others changed their minds. “The men voted unanimously to continue the ministry and because of this decision God worked and hundreds of people in India became believers.  Thirty years later the Ongole church had grown to 15,000 members.  The Lord had another plan for the “Lone Star” church and marvelously rewarded the efforts of all who had patiently labored in the region.”

Pastor Belt ends his article with these words: Are you discouraged because you may not be experiencing fruit in your God-appointed vineyard? Have you thought about resigning your ministry because nothing seems to be happening? Have you quit casting a vision before your people because no one seems to care?  Have you lost the excitement that you first had when called to your particular ministry? Yes, God does use such circumstances at times to nudge us on to different ministries, but sometimes it is just the devil discouraging us to the point where we just want to give up. Over the years I have learned that with God something is always happening, even if we do not see it. Maybe we need to pray more?  Trust more? Work more? For sure we need to wait more! While living in a “Hurry Up World” we must be careful not to forget that the Lord is patiently working out HIS plan. (2 Peter 3:8-9) The great believers have been unwearied waiters! There is no time wasted in waiting IF you are waiting on the will of God!

May these words encourage and challenge you today as you wait on the Lord.

*Maynard Belt is a retired pastor who writes articles of encouragement to people in ministry at:


You did a good job, but . . .

beautiful girl enjoying the summer sunWhen was the last time you heard those words? It’s hard to focus on the compliment when you hear the word “but.”  Usually you get the idea that the speaker wouldn’t have bothered to  give the compliment if that’s all she had to say. She’s merely using the compliment to lead into the advice or criticism which is her main priority.

First let me give some disclaimers.

  • Telling someone what they did right before you say what they did wrong is a good way to soften the blow.
  • We should be open to constructive criticism because it can help us improve and grow.
  • When the person is ready to hear it, carefully worded advice can be extremely helpful.

In spite of that fact, I believe most people need encouragement more than advice.  Encouragement gives confidence to try again and perhaps do better the next time. Think about the last time someone told you, “You did a good job, but . . .” Which part did you remember the most, the positive or the negative? Did it inspire you to do a better job, or was the negative comment impossible to get out of your mind? Do you drive better when someone sits beside you and points out all your mistakes? Do you speak or sing or play an instrument better when someone comes up to you afterward and tells you how you could have done better?

There is a time when constructive criticism is in order. Here are some of them:

  • When you are in a teaching or mentoring position with the person.
  • When they ask you for advice or help.
  • After you have developed a give-and-take relationship with them and earned the right to be heard.
  • When you have learned from them and know they are open to learning from you.
  • When they are making some very dangerous choices and don’t realize it.

It’s like listening. We need to listen to hear and understand, not just to find an excuse to say what we want to say. And we need to give compliments to encourage, not just to give us an excuse to offer advice. When we give frequent compliments and encouragement the person will probably be more ready to listen to occasional advice or criticism. But some of us, face it, seldom give compliments that don’t come with a “but.” Some of us dispense advice and criticism generously, but aren’t ready to listen to advice and criticism ourselves. We need to become good listeners and good encouragers.

It’s easy to compliment children and people just learning to do tasks. It’s often harder to compliment the person who faithfully does a task well. But my experience tells me that most people would thrive if they had more encouragement, compliments, and thanks.

“The finest gift you can give anyone is encouragement. Yet almost no one gets the encouragement they need to grow to their full potential. If everyone received the encouragement they needed to grow, the genius in most everyone would blossom and the world would produce abundance beyond our wildest dreams.” (Sidney Madwed)

Who needs your encouragement today?

[Image courtesy of EBreHNN ATaMaHeHKO/Deposit Photos.]