What It Takes to Survive Ministry

reading Bible

If you don’t think pastoral ministry will be hard, you’re wrong.

Of course, it’s not the only hard vocation. Our congregations are filled with people who fill challenging roles. Pastoral ministry comes with many joys. My point, though, is this: it’s also filled with hazards and difficulties. If you suffer from idealism, pastoral ministry will beat it out of you.

Paul says as much in 2 Timothy 2. He calls Timothy to suffer, and then illustrates what suffering in ministry looks like by comparing it to the suffering of a soldier, athlete, and farmer. Then he adds, “Think over what I say” (2 Timothy 2:7). Don’t rush over the cost that will be demanded of you in ministry.

How will we survive?

I’ve been a pastor for over thirty years now. I’ve enjoyed so many blessings. I can’t believe that God chooses to use someone like me. It seems unbelievable that I’m supported by others to spend time in Scripture and prayer. I’m amazed that people have chosen to love me as they have.

But I’ve also been through seasons of discouragement and conflict. I’ve been disappointed and hurt. I’ve felt my own limits. I’ve felt the weightiness of the calling.

I’ve wondered what it takes to survive.

There’s only one answer. When I was younger, I think I may have been tempted to see it as a throwaway line. The older I get, the more I see the depth of wisdom in Scripture. Before describing the cost of ministry, Paul begins with a simple line: “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1).

If you’re going to survive ministry, you need to be strengthened by the grace that’s in Christ Jesus.

“Timothy is to find his resources for ministry not in his own nature but in Christ’s grace,” writes John Stott. “It is not only for salvation that we are dependent on grace (1:9), but for service also.”

Pastor: gaze at Jesus long enough that you’re astonished by his grace. Never lose sight of how little you deserve and how much God has given you. Ask God to give you ongoing gratitude that decided to pour out his grace in your life.

And then praise God for his grace in your ministry too. God has a limitless supply of resources that he’s happy to give you for every challenge in ministry, and he will give you exactly what you need. He’s not stingy. As one commentator (Robert Yarbrough) observes, he will come to your aid. He will help you through difficulties. He will make your ministry fruitful.

Ministry will be hard, and the only way you’ll survive is to be strengthened by the grace that’s in Christ Jesus. It’s a grace that includes your salvation but extends beyond it. It’s a grace that will work through your own weakness and suffering, and will give you everything you need to discharge your ministry to the end.

Don’t throw a pity party if you’re a pastor. Pastoring is a privilege. But don’t ignore what it will cost either. The only way you’ll stay faithful to the end is if you’re strengthened by God’s grace that’s found in Jesus. So stay there. Live there. It will keep you to the end.

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada