counting the cost: what you need to know before doing ministry
I’ve had different ministry roles since I first became a follower of Christ at the age of 10. God has blessed me with the responsibility of leading church camps, leading ministry teams, leading Bible studies, working at kid’s church, going on mission trips, and doing various other things in ministry.
I can honestly say that ministry is my favorite part of life and is such a critical aspect of who I am. I love it so much and am always fired up to be part of it.
But I can also say with equal honesty that it is extremely difficult.
Here’s the thing. I want YOU to be in ministry with every fiber of my being. I want you to throw everything in and chase after Christ with complete abandon. I want you to be used to give God glory and build His kingdom. It is my chief desire in life.
And I am thrilled that you are reading this because it means that maybe, just maybe, God is whispering to you to be in ministry. AND THAT IS SO FREAKING EXCITING, AND I AM CHEERING YOU ON SO MUCH!!!!
However, I also feel the need to warn you. Ministry is tough, and I want you to go into it ready for the trials that come. In this post, we’re going to discuss the hard things that you will face in ministry, not to discourage you but prepare you so that you can overcome the obstacles that are fired at you.
Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14: 26-28 ESV)
Let’s count the cost so that we can become strong disciples, shall we?
You are walking into battle.
“When you say yes to God, you are saying yes to battle.” (Don’t know who said that, but it’s not my quote!)
The enemy will do everything in his power to stop you. Everything. Seriously. He will attack your relationships, your health, your finances, your time, your emotions, your comfort, your reputation, your faith, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. He will throw temptations and hardships and a whole plethora of crap at you, so watch it.
Once, when I said yes to God’s call for me to train leaders for ministry, I fell into a deep depression within two days. For almost three weeks, I struggled with debilitating insecurity, shame, and suicidal thoughts. Out of nowhere, my relationships with my family and friends blew up; it took all I had just to get out of bed, and money-stress hit me hard. No matter what I did or how much I cried out to God for help, I still felt attacked from every side. It wasn’t until I finally surrendered everything to God and told Him that, even if those emotions never go away, I will follow Him. I told Him that I would follow Him, even if I didn’t get what I wanted. In that moment, I was set free.
SO, two lessons from that:
The enemy will attack you like a demonic ninja on drugs when you say yes to ministry. For reals.
God uses what is meant to break you to change you. He will do some Matrix moves and turn the bullets flying toward you back towards the enemy. Double For Realssss and hallelujah (*and all the people said Amen!).
When you enlist into God’s Army to do good and help others, you are also signing up to fight the enemy. You can’t have one without the other. However, God gives us the power and the strength to WIN. It may be hard, but that means it’s worth it.
“Now my beloved ones, I have saved these most important truths for last: Be supernaturally infused with strength through your life-union with the Lord Jesus. Stand victorious with the force of his explosive power flowing in and through you. Put on God’s complete set of armor provided for us, so that you will be protected as you fight against the evil strategies of the accuser! Your hand-to-hand combat is not with human beings, but with the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms. For they are a powerful class of demon-gods and evil spirits that hold this dark world in bondage. Because of this, you must wear all the armor that God provides so you’re protected as you confront the slanderer, for you are destined for all things and will rise victorious. Put on truth as a belt to strengthen you to stand in triumph. Put on holiness as the protective armor that covers your heart. Stand on your feet alert, then you’ll always be ready to share the blessings of peace. In every battle, take faith as your wrap-around shield, for it is able to extinguish the blazing arrows coming at you from the Evil One! Embrace the power of salvation’s full deliverance, like a helmet to protect your thoughts from lies. And take the mighty razor-sharp Spirit-sword of the spoken Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10-18 TPT)
Don’t be afraid of the battle because He’s already won the war.
Plus, what kind of life do you want to lead? One marked by safe cowardice or courageous pain? I don’t know about you, but I choose the latter.
You will feel inadequate 98% of the time.
This might sound like a bad thing, but it’s actually really good. God puts us in a state of weakness to keep us desperate for Him and leaning on His strength instead of our own.
Welcome your weakness, because it keeps you humble and keeps God at the center of everything.
Also, you are inadequate. Hate to break it to you, but that’s the truth. You are helpless without God. You need Him, desperately.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 9-10 NIV)
You will have to sacrifice.
When you add something to your life, you have to give something else up. That’s a basic fact of life.
Sometimes it will mean choosing to work on a lesson rather than go out with your friends or giving your lunch to someone else (think Ross with his turkey sandwich but with much more grace). It might mean tarnishing your goody-two-shoes reputation to love an outcast, giving up your money to pay for needed resources, not binge-watching that show so that you can pray for the people you minister to, or forgoing that nap to help someone.
To add ministry into your life, you will have to sacrifice something else in your life.
People will not like it.
Most of the people who you minister to will take you and what you do for granted; they will not listen to you or pay attention to you or basically do anything that you want them to do. That sounds frustrating (and it definitely is!), but you gotta remember that they’re not where you are. They’re still growing like children needing guidance, and sometimes children just don’t listen. So, be patient. Love on them as if you were their parent…well, maybe not exactly like that, but you get the gist.
Also, your family and friends will probably not understand or be supportive. In fact, I can almost guarantee that your family and friends will not hold the same perspective as you about ministry. And that is totally okay. It doesn’t matter what they think as long as you know what God thinks.
What’s more, authority figures may try to stop you, persecute you, and harass you. The very people who you are trying to minister to may turn their backs on you at the blink of an eye. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it goes, and you have to be ready for it.
It happened to Jesus, and if you follow Jesus, it will happen to you. Get used to it.
You will want to give up.
There will be days when the work is difficult and the price is high. There will be days when you don’t feel like doing it, when you have no energy for it, and you don’t see any positive results from your ministry. There will be days when the entire world will scream at you to throw in the towel, and a voice in your head will whisper the same.
BUT it gets better. You just have to keep fighting, keep going, and keep crying out for God.
In the eighth grade, a friend and I led a Bible study at school that had around 60 kids coming every week (!!!!). It was great, but it was so, so difficult. I wanted to give up. Actually, I’m sorry to say that I did give up for a little while. My friend took over for a few weeks while I slid to the back burner, caught up in my own emotions. God convicted me, and I humbled myself before Him and realized that, in my pride, I had been disobeying Him. I turned my back on what He wanted and gave up on His promises. Friend, don’t do that.
You will want to give up, but I urge you from the depths of my being: DO NOT GIVE UP (unless, of course, you are certain that God is calling you somewhere else).
You will be discouraged and disappointed.
Literally every. single. time. I’m finished doing some sort of ministry, within 30 minutes I feel discouraged and am unable to stop thinking about the things I did “wrong” or that what I do is not impacting people in the way I had hoped.
It took me a long time to realize that that’s the enemy’s attacks and that I do NOT have to allow him to sway me. I do have the power to resist discouragement through prayer and standing on God’s promises.
Besides that, there will be times when ministry just doesn’t go right. Things outside of your control will throw mud at your masterpiece, and you’ll just have to wipe it off, lift your chin, and keep painting the picture God set before you.
I’m sorry, but there is no way around it. You will face discouragement and disappointment in ministry, and it will probably happen often. So buck up, soldier, because you’ve gotta be able to resist.
(Side note: If you circled it in prayer and went into it surrendered to God, even your mess-ups will become triumphs. You might be messy, but God always uses our mess for His glory. Don’t sweat the imperfections because it points to His perfection.)
You will not see the fruits of your labor all the time.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve cried out to God because it seemed like my teaching fell on hard hearts and deaf ears. I’ve taught important truths to people who I knew needed it, praying that it would push them to change, andddddd they didn’t. I’ve urged people to do something that I knew would benefit them in so many ways…and then none of them did it. #ughhhhhh
You know, in those moments I think of Abraham. God promised little Abe that He would make Abraham into a great nation, that his people would inherit the land, and that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars. Sounds pretty great, right? If I were Abraham, I’d be doing my happy dance, complete with my stellar 70’s moves.
BUT, you know what? Abraham died before all of that happened. I mean, God came through on His promises, but Abraham never saw it.
In the same way, God has promised us fruit for our labor, and He will deliver. We just may never see it, and we have to be okay with that. We have to choose to follow Him, obey Him, and sow the seed, even if we never see the harvest.
On the flip side, when you are able to see a snippet of an impact in someone after a long time, it is literally the best feeling in the world. Think: a planet made out of fresh chocolate chip cookies with unicorns doing the moonwalk in a field of wildflowers. That’s what it feels like.
It is absolutely, totally, without a doubt, incredibly worth it. Always.
Sure, it might be hard, but that makes it so much worth it. The reality is you are obeying God, and that is all that matters. It doesn’t matter if it’s not what you wanted or that it’s not comfortable or even if you don’t see the results you were praying for.
You are obeying God, and you will receive a reward for it in Heaven.
He will honor your obedience.
The King will be pleased with you.
Let that sink into your bones. #bliss
Friend, I don’t know where you are right now.
Maybe you’re in the thick of it now, fighting and battling and doing ministry like the awesome person you are. If that’s the case, I want to pray for you and your ministry. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or maybe you’re thinking about doing some sort of ministry (because you’re super awesome, too). Maybe you have an idea of what God is calling you to do. Or maybe you have no idea, but you know that God is calling you to do something. I would love to partner with you in prayer and help you figure out this whole ministry thing. Contact me through this link or email me at email@example.com
Either way, know that I am cheering you on and circling you in prayer.