Have you noticed that ministry isn’t exactly an emotionally stable experience?
For example, I preached last weekend and I experienced some emotional highs when people told me how the message connected with their lives and how God is moving.
Then, on Monday, I crashed.
I was so exhausted!
A mentor of mine always says, “God gave Mondays to preachers so they would know what a hangover feels like.”
Maybe you’re not a preacher but you’re walking closely with a family who is going through something difficult.
A few weeks ago, a family in our church lost a six-year-old in an accident.
It was a privilege to journey with them through their loss but serving families who are navigating tragedy is emotionally exhausting.
Sometimes even the normal tasks of ministry feel heavy: recruiting volunteers and fundraising in particular.
Or maybe for you it’s a concerning trend in your church.
Attendance is dropping or your church is aging at a rate that makes you wonder if you’ll even be a church in twenty years.
Trends like these keep me up at night!
All this to say, sometimes ministry feels like too much.
Maybe you’re in a place where you’re feeling totally inadequate for the task.
I’m reminded of a story in the Gospels where Jesus was teaching and healing a ginormous crowd in the middle of nowhere.
It’s getting late in the day and the disciples suggest that maybe Jesus should wrap it up so people can go to the surrounding towns and villages for food and lodging.
Jesus responds to their suggestion with this,
“They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14:16 NIV)
The disciples check the food supply and they have five small barley loaves and a couple of fish.
Funny joke Jesus.
But He’s serious.
And isn’t this what ministry feels like sometimes?
Jesus directs us to do something that we are entirely inadequate for.
We simply do not have within ourselves to do what is needed.
The disciples didn’t have the resources and neither do we. So, how does Jesus respond?
“Bring them here to me,” (Matthew 14:18 NIV)
Bring the inadequate resources to me.
Bring your inadequate selves to me and watch me work.
You can’t, but I can.
And of course, you probably know the story, Jesus transforms those meager provisions into an incredibly memorable picnic for thousands of people.
I think there is an important lesson here for those of us in ministry.
We don’t have what it takes on our own to complete the tasks that Jesus has called us to.
But, when we bring ourselves to Him, often He is pleased to transform our inadequate selves and inadequate resources into exactly what is needed.
And sometimes that transformation happens in a moment, like in this story...but usually it doesn’t.
So, now what?
There is another saying of Jesus that I’ve found encouraging and empowering during discouraging seasons and it comes from the Gospel of John.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5 NIV)
Jesus reminds His followers that He is the source.
He is the one who produces the fruit.
He is the one who gifts us with the abilities and skills and intelligence to do the ministry that He has called us to.
Our job is to stay connected.
To remain in Him.
Look, I’m not sure where you are at right now.
Maybe this really is a difficult and demoralizing season for you.
Maybe you’re feeling entirely inadequate for the task. Maybe you feel like you’re failing in ministry.
Maybe your church is in a tailspin.
I just want to remind you that it is not your job to produce the fruit of ministry.
It’s not your job to change people’s hearts.
It’s not your job to keep marriages together. It’s not your job to convert people.
It’s not your job to make your church grow. You can’t do these things.
Only Jesus can do that.
He’s the one who produces the fruit.
He’s the source.
We’re the branches.
Our job is not to produce, it’s to connect—and stay connected to Him.
Let me leave you with this.
Just be faithful.
Be faithful to pursue Jesus and be faithful to bring your best to the work He has called you to.
That’s all He’s asking you to do.
Let’s trust Him with the results.
If this is a discouraging and overwhelming season for you, I pray that God restores your joy and I pray that He reminds you that your identity is not in what you do but who you are, in Him.