Thank you so much for your insight in Part One of this discussion. You’ve all confirmed a lot of my ideas and brought up some interesting new ones. By all means, keep them coming!
Let me share a couple of my own thoughts on this topic.
The point of the chapter I’m writing will be focused on keeping ourselves from having to make these hard decisions in the first place. Personally, there have been many ‘jobs’ within the church I’ve taken on because I felt, wrongly, that a failed ministry would reflect on our effectiveness as leaders. I’ve also started new activities that were true needs but I – wrongly again – considered myself a ‘ministry planter’ and assumed someone else would catch the vision and come take it over once I got it established. (I loved the quote by Adrian Rogers, “A need does not constitute a call.” Good one, Smelling Coffee!) Any number of motivations can leave us in the complicated predicament of laying aside something good to make room to operate within our true giftedness.
Unfortunately, many of us are not in the position for a do-over so we are left wondering how to deal with the the mess we are in.
As a woman in servant leadership, in many ways I agree with Sarah (Life in the Parsonage). In my opinion when the life of a ministry is at stake we should ask: “What purpose does it serve?” If the ministry that will be lost is one that regularly proclaims the name of Jesus and sees people born again as a result, then as bond servants of that Gospel, we have to suck it up and do what’s needed. I have a much easier time stepping down from a role that only serves the Body than one which spreads the news of Christ to unbelievers – even if I like the one that serves the Body best. I personally do not believe, either personally or corporately, that we should ever shrink back from proclaiming the name of Jesus. When I find myself in this position, I claim the words of Galatians 6:8-9: “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” I have no doubt the Lord will reward one who soldiers through weariness to spread His Fame.
Now. I hope I’ve not lost any of you yet. If you are still here, let me present one more twist.
Many of you expressed how aggravating it is for people to hide behind the mask of calling when in fact, they just don’t want to work. This can be true for laypeople and ministers. Often, we wear ourselves out in the world so that there’s no energy left for the church. This is a constant struggle for me considering I have four children – three of whom are involved in every sport offered. One of my frequent prayers is for God to place a zeal for His House back in the hearts of men and women. That we would LOOK FORWARD to being there instead of thinking of meeting times as an interruption to our weeks. That we would never equate HARD with NOT MY CALLING. We are all called to make disciples so isn’t it natural that Satan would attack those desires and fatigue us with the thoughts of pouring it out week after week? Yes, our first calling is to our families. But does our vision for our family align with our purpose as believers? Are we teaching our children the importance of Christian service or of play date and ball game attendance?
OUCH. OUCH. OUCH. My feet hurt.
I’m still wrestling back and forth on this one. For now, I’m reading through your comments and praying diligently on how to address this important issue. Obviously, the answer greatly depends upon the situation.
With that said, here’s my not-so-short list of considerations for laying down a specific job or ministry within the church:
1. What steps have been taken to find a replacement? Sometimes general pleas are not enough. Ask God to reveal a candidate and ask them personally.
2. Is the ministry inward or outwardly focused? Be very hesitant to discontinue a true, soul-winning ministry.
3. Consider the pros and cons. Which outweighs the other?
4. If this is a gospel-proclaiming ministry to unbelievers, is “I just don’t want to do this anymore” a good enough reason?
5. Pray, pray, pray. If no one steps up and we’ve determined this ministry can not be let go for the Kingdom’s sake – ask God to renew personal zeal for it. You may not look forward to it now, but often joy is reserved for the morning. I’ve experienced this many times.
6. If this is a ministry that is not an outreach, ask God for the boldness of Apollos. In 1 Corinthians 16:12, Paul said of him, “I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity. “
This verse always makes me cheer (in my best Toby Mac holla), “Yeah, Boy!”. Can you imagine saying no to strong-willed Paul? And yet we are told Apollos was ‘quite unwilling’. I would love to have heard the conversation that Paul would describe this way. Bravo to Apollos for refusing ‘strong urgings’, no matter how imposing the person making the request.
Okay, Round Two of your thoughts…. Just be gentle, okay? :)