Please note, I have added to the post to clarify. See the parenthetical addition in italics.
So many times I want to throw in the ministry towel and be “normal”—to have a normal job with normal responsibilities.
Maybe some of you out there know what I mean. Love, joy, peace, patience…you know the rest. Sometimes I simply don’t have those things. I can’t find them. There are periods of my life where ministry seems so natural. It seems to flow from me. It is a part of who I am. To teach a class, write a blog, preach a sermon, envision new project, these are some of the things that I love to do. I can’t help it. Sometimes . . .
But then you are in ministry and you are committed to these things. They are your life. They are a daily responsibility.
8-11am: Study and pray
11am-12pm: Encourage staff. Set direction for ministry. Give assignments. Set ministry priorities responsibilities.
1-3pm: Write a blog that encourages and educates Christians in the faith.
3-5pm: Develop new courses on theology, discipleship, and prepare to teach/preach.
6-9pm: Teach, encourage, exhort in truth, grace, love, and righteousness (repeat every Tuesday and Wednesday, and some Sunday mornings)
All day: sporadically respond to emails and phone calls from people who need encouragement and exhortation in the faith with gentleness, respect, grace, love, and conviction (and don’t fake it!)
The most troublesome times in my life are when I don’t feel like doing these things but I have to anyway. Why don’t I feel like it? Because I am not up to the task. I am not above reproach.
Here is how some days go:
I don’t have love today. I have no discipline or self-control. I am not optimistic. I have no joy. Me and my wife are not getting along. I am short tempered with my kids. I am behind on the bills and angry about it. I am too ashamed about my attitude to talk to God. It is just one of those days. If I could take a pill to change it all, I would. But I don’t have one. Nevertheless, I must to do my job anyway. I have to design a class on teaching children the basics of discipleship, yet I cannot find a disciple in me. But I must to do my job anyway.
If I was a architect, then my skills would lead the way. Rote skills that don’t require really spirituality this day (or any day). I could be responsible and work just the same, no matter what my prayer life was like. If I was a doctor . . . diagnose the problem and prescribe the solution, perform a surgery, set a bone. Rote. If I was a teacher of history. The facts are the facts and my attitude does not change them. (I am not saying that that is all these jobs are or, for the Christian, that these jobs should not be done by a spiritually fit person. I am simply saying that it is POSSIBLE to do these jobs well while spiritually sick, while ministry often assumes differently.)
Some days I am not qualified to do my job. Some days I am neither encouraged or an encourager.
Rote education. Rote doctrine. Rote truth. That’s the solution. Easy enough if your reliance is only on yourself to change minds. Easy enough if you don’t care if people’s spiritual life is affected for the better. Easy enough if you not really in ministry. Oh, and easy enough if you ministry does not rely on the faithful and trusting support of donors . . . many of whom you don’t know personally, but they trust you nonetheless.
“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” (Titus 2: 7-8)
FAIL (a least this day).
But I have been ordained. I have been entrusted with a special dispensation and calling. I have been entrusted through a ministry where people rely on me to be . . . well . . . more than this!
How do you deal with this? Call in sick? “Yes, I am not feeling spiritual today. I am taking one of my ‘spiritually sick days.” Please have someone else fill my responsibilities . . . someone who is following God today . . . When will I be back? Probably tomorrow or the next day, but there is no guarantee. I’ll keep you up-to-date.”
Once I do “recover” it is not complete as I have to deal with the lingering effects of the guilt that I could not do what I am now, once again, slightly encouraged to tell other to do. After a few weeks, I am back in full swing. Three weeks without an “episode” and I am on top of the world. The lessons flow from me. All who are around me a encouraged. I remember why I was called to this position. I am ready to change the world by word and example. That is . . . until I have another episode.
How do I call in spiritually sick? There are sermons that must preached. Prayers that must be said. Students that must be taught. A ministry staff that must be encouraged.
But for God’s grace . . .
Sometimes I wish I could, but I can’t call in.
C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger.
Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I’m a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]