We can easily list dozens of ways to lighten the load of ministry. The hard part is acting on any one of them or acting on the one most suited to our situation. Here are three that shouldn’t add much work to your schedule.
1. Pour out your heart to the Lord and ask others for prayer and help
This makes most any list. We have been created as mere human beings, limited, finite and needy. To reach the zenith of our humanity, we say “Jesus help” and follow that with asking for prayer and help from those close to us. This is faith: to be brought to the end of ourselves and to trust in Christ, the head of the church. In other words, when burnout is bearing down on us and we become keenly aware of our weaknesses—this is actually a good thing. The Apostle Paul aspired to such times. Self-reliance is a myth. Maturity means that we grow in dependence
2. Look for the Spirit’s activity
I was with some Bible teachers recently who seemed tired by the slog of ministry. They mused, “Do people ever really change?” People’s growth in godliness can, indeed, seem glacial, but I think they were saying something else. Their primary ministry is preaching and teaching and that limits their opportunities to engage in face-to-face ministry, which is where you see the Spirit on display.
As a counselor I see people who feel stuck, yet the Spirit is with them and the evidences are everywhere. If you only greeted them on Sunday morning, you might miss it. But get into the details of daily life and you will see repentance, perseverance, patience, bold love and grief that calls out to the Lord. When you see the glory of God on display in this way, your spirit is lifted.
If you are feeling overburdened in pastoral ministry, look for the work of the Spirit in someone’s life. Ask for a story of what God is doing. It will remind you that we are living in the age of the Spirit. The temple’s curtain has been taken down and earth has access to heaven. Now we freely enter the Holy of Holies, and soon we will see him face-to-face.
3. It is God’s will that you taste rejection
Perhaps the most difficult part of ministry is that you will be critiqued and rejected by those whom you love and serve. You will be accused wrongly. You will be judged because of what you do and what you don’t do. People will leave the church because of you. This is inherent in pastoral ministry.
Consider Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians as a word of encouragement. In this letter, we discover that the greatest of all church planters was rejected by the very church he planted. He didn’t fit their idea of a gifted preacher. He wasn’t very impressive, and who wants to go a church in which the pastor is merely ordinary?
The encouragement here is that there is a lineage of rejection among those called to ministry. The Old Testament prophets were rejected, the Son himself was rejected, and the shepherds who pastor in Jesus’ name will be rejected. It is a reminder that you are joined to Christ and share in his sufferings. We can, of course, speak and act in ways that deserve critique, but there will be days when it will come for no reason. At those times, Paul reminds you that this is confirmation of the love of God.
The stresses and burdens of ministry can seem like too much to bear. But when we realize that Scripture actually predicts such times, and it can be evidence of God’s approval, then hope begins to enter the hardships.