Getting started is usually a great deal of fun. The first day on the job, the launch of a new endeavor, or the beginning of a new project usually contains a good bit of excitement. At this point I will politely and tactfully mention honeymoons without elaboration. Moving on. My kids just went back to school and were really excited about that first day. However, it didn’t take long for the excitement to wear off and for the early mornings and long days at school to start to take their toll. At some point the excitement wears off, the honeymoon is over, and the weight of responsibility begins to kick in. I call this “the grind.” I remember when I first became a Pastor. It was an exciting endeavor to me. It was something that I had prayed for and dreamed of for a long time. Then “the grind” set in. Those Sundays seemed to keep coming every seven days. The work and preparation for each weekend was now a responsibility and soon became a tangible weight. It’s inevitable that even the things we love to do will become a weight of responsibility and over time become a grind. The question becomes, how do I stay fresh in ministry when what I am doing is no longer fresh?
If you run out of gas in your car it will be inconvenient. In fact, this morning I picked up a gentleman on the side of the road that ran out of gas taking his little girl to school. We left his wife and daughter in the vehicle while I ran him to a gas station. He confided in me on the way to the gas station that his wife wasn’t very happy with the fact that he had forgotten to get gas. His daughter was now late to school, insert bible passage about a quarreling wife here, and you get the idea. It makes for a rough morning. If you run out of gas it’s inconvenient. However, if you run out of oil it’s going to be more than inconvenient, it’s going to be damaging. Some people are running out of gas and that can cause problems, but some people are running out of oil and that can cause major problems. In ministry it’s the oil of the Holy Spirit that keeps us fresh and running without burning out. The problem many people make is they think a vacation will solve the problem of feeling the grind. Vacations are great. A weekend away, a week on a beach, or trip to a favorite destination can be very refreshing. Everyone needs time to rest and recover. A vacation is a great way to reenergize yourself and to fill up your gas tank for another long stretch. The problem is that even with a full tank and energy to burn we still need fresh oil for our lives. A vacation is good for the body and mind, but we need oil for our soul. After 17 years of preaching and doing ministry, here are 4 things I recommend to keep the oil flowing in your life and to keep ministry fresh long after “the grind” has set in:
1. Find a worship environment that is more about the awe of God than the attributes of the service. Sometimes in ministry we attend worship services, but don’t truly engage God in them. The service and worship time is about making sure everything is going good and that all of the needs of the worshippers are met. I confess that many times my mind is on my sermon and what I feel like God has laid on my heart to share that day. Ultimately the worship time becomes about what I am doing for God. To stay fresh in ministry you need to intentionally seek out worship moments that are about what God has done for you and not about what you are doing for God. We are recipients of God’s amazing grace, His incredible love, and a multitude of His blessings. Be intentional about finding a place of worship that is simply about the awe of what God has done for you. It’s oil to my life when I worship God with a grateful heart.
2. Find a vision environment that is larger than your current vision. It’s cliche I know, but sometimes you can’t see the forrest for the trees. Sometimes In ministry and being faithful to tend to our one tree or group of trees we forget that we are a part of something much greater. One of the healthiest things you can do is to go to a conference of other believers and christian leaders to be a part of something larger than just you and your tree(s). It adds oil to your life to see what God is doing in the lives and ministries of others. My wife Heidi and I love to go to a larger church in our area at their Saturday night service. It adds oil to my life each time as I see the larger picture of what God is doing in our community through the local church
3. Find a prayer environment that lifts you up. I pray, I believe in the power of prayer, and I believe in praying for everything at all times. However, there are moments when I don’t need to pray, but rather I need to be prayed for. I still believe in the laying on of hands and I still believe in impartation. You need to be intentional about having someone pray for you. There have been strategic moments in my life when godly leaders have laid hands on me and prayed for me. It was oil for my life and ministry.
4. Find a word environment that builds you up. I am a Jentzen Franklin fan. In fact, I got the chance to meet Jentzen a few weeks ago. When I met him I said, and I quote, “hey Pastor Jentzen, you are my man crush.” I thought it would be funny, but instead I think I embarrassed him and myself in the process. Have I mentioned that I am an idiot? Nevertheless, I listen to Jentzen’s podcast, Chris Hodges’ podcast, Andy Stanley’s podcast, and several others. Jentzen preached a message recently that was exactly what I need for this season of my life. I have listened to the message no less than 5 times and it moves me to tears each time I hear it. It’s oil to my life. If anyone knows Jentzen, please tell him I’m sorry.