Discouragement can be overwhelming. Ministry is hard and discouragement seems to accompany us along the way. Regardless of the size of the church or the role of the minister in the church, discouragement comes.
I am often asked to go to various events and speak to pastors. I cherish any opportunity to pour into any pastor or group of pastors. At least seventy-five percent of these requests urge me to do one thing when I preach. Their plea is: “Please come and encourage our pastors. Most of them face major discouragement in ministry.”
I Understand Discouragement
I am a man of high expectations. I have high expectations for myself, those who serve with me, and the church I am called to serve. While this is usually a friend that helps me, there are times it discourages me greatly.
Years ago, when serving in a smaller membership church, I became overwhelmed with discouragement. I was out there without a lot of help and little to no team to support me. I was in the grind of ministry and periodically, I would hit a low point.
I have been at Cross Church almost twenty-seven years, surrounded by a large team of gifted men and women, serving one of the greatest churches on this planet, and I still deal with discouragement. While there are Sundays I drive home with the highest sense that God met with us, there are other Sundays I drive home in the lowest of valleys. Discouragement is real for all of us. None faces it any more than another.
Six Causes of Discouragement
There are too many causes of discouragement in ministry to list them all. However, I have discovered these six things to be contributors to discouragement:
- Unfulfilled plans: There are times when we plan for great success, working hard to achieve our desired end goal, but we fail. Yes, at times we even fail miserably.
- Small-minded people: Sometimes, regardless of how hard you work and how detailed you get in carrying people with you, some of them just do not get it.
- Grind of work: I feel I am in that grind most days of my life. Each of us has a different bottom line perhaps, but here is mine: I have been here so long, there are times I feel my voice is ignored and even my gifts unappreciated. Grind. Hard. Daily. Hourly. Morning to evening. This is real ministry today. At times, tenure adds to this, but at times it is just real for all of us.
- Seasons of barrenness: There are times when we sow, and sow, and sow some more. We look for the harvest and it is little to none. There are times when we labor strongly, implementing great structure in the church to build the church for health and growth, yet all we see is barrenness. This can overwhelm all of us.
- People leave your church: This can be one of the most disturbing, perplexing, and discouraging things in the life of pastors. After we have poured our lives into people, some we even know personally and regard as friends, they leave the church. In many cases, they never take the time to notify you personally. I have to admit, even after all these years, this is still one of the deepest pains that I struggle with in ministry.
- Criticism of others: People can be mean. Some are very tough and hard on ministers. We miss their mark continually and they let everyone know about it. Even when we do our best to walk with integrity and honor, people still feel the need to be brutally honest. This causes great sadness in the life of a minister.
Without question, every minister has to learn how to work through these and other things that can contribute to discouragement in ministry.
Four Ways to Deal with Discouragement
Since discouragement is so real in ministry, how do we deal with it? How can we get back on top and embrace the battle with readiness and vigilance. Let me offer a few suggestions that have helped me deal with discouragement:
- Talk to God about it: With every pain and hurt in ministry, there is one way to ultimately overcome it. Talk to God about it. Carry it to the Lord in prayer daily. Leave it with Him. Resentment, bitterness, and pain never unpacked before God only leads to greater discouragement. Pastor, talk to God about it and leave it with Him.
- Keep your eyes on Jesus: Nothing will discourage us more than when we have our eyes on people. I disappoint others. They disappoint me. We can only cope with discouragement when our eyes are off of people and on to Jesus and Him alone. He never fails. He never disappoints. He is with you.
- Learn to forgive: Ministry is hard enough. Ministers that carry resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness deal with massive discouragement. This is unhealthy and in reality, your problem is not discouragement, but unforgiveness. Let it go, brother. Let it go.
- Go forward: Discouragement can paralyze you and your ministry. You can’t live looking backwards. Perhaps you were disappointed or hurt by others. It happens to all of us. Perhaps you disappointed others and failed miserably. I have, and I know it. But regardless, whether it is on me, on others, or both of us, none of that matters now. Now is the time to move on and press through it. Go forward!
Where you go from here? Let me suggest something. The next time you are dealing with discouragement, get out of your chair and on to your knees and talk to God about it. Bear your heart to Him. Some of you need to do it today, even right now. He can and will do for you, what no one else can do. He will carry you through…even through discouragement.
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd