Lesson One: Ministry Is Great, But Hard!

Planned that way

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, anyone could do it. It’s the hard that makes it great!” That’s what Jimmy Duggan (Tom Hanks) told Dottie Hinson (Genna Davis) in A League of Their Own, when she was about to quit the baseball team. It always reminds me of Jesus talking to his disciples about life in ministry. The harvest is unending. Many won’t listen. Betrayal comes from surprising places. There’s a high price to pay. Ministry is really great, but it’s hard.

Greater than baseball

Ministry is great. Baseball is fun, but not great. Jimmy Duggan got that part wrong. And a three hour work day, mostly standing around watching, with an average annual salary of $4.5 million is not my definition of hard, either. The work you do is eternally important. A life transformed for time and for eternity by the gospel is great, far greater than baseball. I will agree with Jimmy, however, that it’s the hard that makes it great.

Impossibly hard

The work of the gospel is so impossibly hard for you and me that God sent his Son to do for us what we could never do. And he still is. Sometimes we make the work of ministry harder than it should be, ironically, by thinking “I can do this!” We can’t. Jesus told Peter and friends, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). We’re at our best when totally reliant on Jesus. Only he could die for the sins of the whole world. And only he can build his Church.

“I can’t do this!”

I’m convinced that the Lord designed our part of the work of ministry to be so hard so that we would stay humbled by the task. When we’re poor in spirit, the Spirit of Christ enters with the riches and power of the cross of Christ. “I can’t do this” is the proper posture for pointing people to the cross of Jesus and saying, “But he can!” God doesn’t create faith when people see how hard we’re working. “Nice sermon, Pastor” doesn’t change lives. Lives are changed when people hear the message and say, “Jesus is Lord.” That’s evidence that Jesus showed up again, building his Church. The work of ministry that the Lord has called you to do is hard enough in itself without you making it harder by thinking it’s all up to you. It isn’t.

Not for everyone

Ministry is not for everyone. That may be part of the reason why so many ministers struggle with doubts about their call. The Lord and the Church set aside certain individuals to take up this heavy task. “If it wasn’t hard, anyone could do it.” Good call, Jimmy. Never doubt your call because ministry is hard and you think you can’t do it. We all feel that way. Find confidence in stead in knowing that because ministry is hard, Jesus will show up today and work his wonders through your humbly offered words and deeds of ministry. That’s what’s so great about it. Thanks for reading. “Ministry is Great, but Hard” is Lesson One in, “Reclaiming the Joy of Ministry: The Grace Place Way to Church Worker Wellness” a new book from Grace Place Wellness Ministries coming in January.