Dealing with Unhealthy Emotions in Ministry

Posted by Aaron Buer on October 6, 2022

Ministry is hard. Yep, that’s obvious. But why? Well, consider some of the negative emotions you might have experienced over the last few weeks:  

  • Envy. That church across town is growing like crazy while your church growth is flat. 
  • Anger. That four page letter you received from a congregant about your sermon last weekend. Let’s just say it wasn’t flattering.  
  • Resentment. That staff member who left. It’s not that he left. It’s when he left and how he left you hanging.  
  • Anxiety. You’re exhausted and another sermon is due on Sunday. How are you going to pull this off?

What do we do with all these negative emotions that we didn’t ask for and don’t want, but nevertheless show up in our minds and hearts? This is an important question because left unchecked, these emotions are capable of producing enormous damage in us and in our churches.  

I’ve been spending some time in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, thinking about the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit within each of us. Part of the list of the “acts of the flesh” that Paul provides gives us a glimpse of what could happen in us and in our churches if we don’t address our negative emotions.  

“…hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy…”

Galatians 5:20-21

The negative emotions we experience have the potential to do serious damage in our hearts, families and churches.  

So, how do we avoid this? I find Paul’s words so helpful here.  

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

Gratifying the flesh would involve expressing or repressing our negative emotions in ways that are unhealthy, that lead to the discord, dissensions and factions that Paul talked about.

Why? Because the flesh always entices us to seek fulfillment for our desires and emotions in anything and everything that’s not God.

Notice that Paul doesn’t simply say, “Don’t gratify the desires of the flesh.” He essentially says, “If you walk by the Spirit…you won’t [gratify the desires of the flesh].”  

There is a massive difference here. One is all about our effort. Do better. Try harder. The other is about all about the transformational power of the Holy Spirit at work within us.

You already know that trying harder isn’t going to accomplish much. But the power of the Holy Spirit is a different story altogether.  

I’ve been reminded this week of how important it is for us as pastors and ministry leaders to live connected to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit empowers us to say no to the desires of the flesh and yes to the movement of God in our hearts.  

So, how are you staying connected to the Holy Spirit this week? How is your time in the Scriptures?

Are you investing in intentional, honest and accountable relationships with other Jesus followers? So often in my life, the Spirit guides, encourages and challenges through other believers that I am journeying with.  

Wrap Up

Could I challenge you? This matters. Living connected to the Spirit is critical to our health and longevity in ministry. 

It’s critical to the well-being of our families and our churches. Ministry is challenging and emotionally complex. How we navigate the emotions of ministry is so important.

May you live connected to the power of the Holy Spirit this week as we all navigate the complex emotions of ministry.  

Topics: Advice

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