Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#1)

“I’m tired of letting mean people (in church) determine when we move.” These words were spoken to me by a pastor quoting his wife as they and their family are preparing to relocate once again due conflict, hurt, sorrow and discouragement in ministry.

Soul Shepherding Ministry posted “over half of ministry leaders are discouraged.”

When you consider the events of the last two years brought on by Covid such as shut-downs, divided congregations over politics and masks, and now the economy and the fear of war, no wonder this can be said of pastors (as well as thousands of others).

These are discouraging days. Pastors have battled discouragement for many years. Our day is not unique nor is the trial of discouragement (1 Corinthians 10:12-14). Ask King David (1 Samuel 21:15-22:2). I fight discouragement and have done so off-and-on for years.

What does it mean to be discouraged? What does it look like? What causes it?

Discouragement is defined by the Britannica Dictionary as “a feeling of having lost hope or confidence; something (such as a failure or difficulty) that discourages someone.” The FreeDictionary says it is “the feeling of despair in the face of obstacles.” Webster’s Dictionary gives it as “depression or weakening of confidence; dejection.”

If you want to know what it looks like, go home with your pastor on Sunday night or spend time with him on Monday . . . or Tuesday or . . . Wednesday . . . . The look and frame of discouragement is one of down-heartedness, lack of motivation, loss of joy and zeal, slumped shoulders, slower pace, procrastination, apathy, critical spirit, a spirit of Eeyore, mood swings, and more. Now, I’m not saying that every pastor is this way, but as noted above and from history, discouragement is a force that must be dealt with.

Discouragement comes from a fear of failure, “mean people,” lack of success, fatigue, not knowing how to rest or “turn off” the ministry demands, lack of exercise, unhealthy eating habits and subsequent weight issues, health events, financial woes, focusing on people rather than Christ, acting like you are the “Messiah” of your ministry, a sense of not meeting up to other’s expectations, competition and comparison in ministry, reading other “successful” pastor’s Twitter feeds, frustration with people, feeling like you are never doing enough, not getting everything done, believing you have to be on your “A game” every Sunday, the attacks of Satan, wrong thinking, feeling forsaken by God and others, being misunderstood, always on the front lines, personal marriage and/or family issues, etc.

In the next few blogs, I want to be a genuine source of encouragement like a cold drink on a hot, humid day after reaching a mountain summit on the AT (Appalachian Trail) or a refreshing dip at the base of a 125 foot western North Carolina waterfall or the expectation of a multi-colored beach sunrise. I want to help you, my friend in ministry, with handling discouragement and rising up out of the despair!

I’ll end this post with Psalm 42:5 (NLT), a passage I have quoted so often over the years when my heart has been disquieted within me.

Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!

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