Broken-hearted ministry

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" - Psalm 51:17

Having your heart truly broken by God is the most essential pre-requisite to being an effective minister of any kind. To the inexperienced, ministry can seem so blissful, even romantic. We often dream of our own effectiveness and how great the rest of our lives will be.

Then comes the first heartache. It is often a significant disappointment - not as many people came to the event as expected, the church leadership did not give approval, too many details were forgotten and it all fell apart - these are often difficult to take for the first time. They cause us to doubt our idealism, "Maybe ministry isn't what I thought it was going to be..."

The true heart-breaker comes when our ministry ideals hit the wall of disillusionment. This pain is of a greater weight - getting fired by someone you respect, betrayed by a confidant, even realizing you're not as good in ministry as you hoped - they come with a driving force into your gut and leave you breathless. You are brought to the point of despair. All prior dreams feel paper-thin. You feel unqualified.

It is here that the LORD can forge us into the person He is calling us to be. Right here, in this despair and pain when all seems ruined, is when the LORD walks with us through the unimaginable.

On the other side of this heartache is the road prepared for us. We are sober-minded, maybe a little jaded, toward ministry - knowing that we are all just fragile and sinful people. We know the road won't be easy, but we are ready for the storm this time. Instead of battling against our idealism, we fight to stay hopeful. We don't wonder how large the number of people will be, but how many of them will stick around.

And in a funny way, the LORD uses this to teach us that ministry has everything to do with Him. Our hopes and dreams in ministry revolve around Him and His plan. We can no longer get caught up in how things look or feel within our church; the disillusionment has set for too long. We are smarter now. We can do our best and trust God to move how He sees fit.

It is here that we can begin to increase our effectiveness, precisely because we are no longer concerned with it. How our church is doing doesn't reflect our identity anymore, and it is the pain that reminds us to stay this way.

Let our hearts burn with the pain of past lessons. Let us watch as fear and pride melt away to reveal a mature passion for the LORD. It is only the trial that can burn us this way, and we can embrace them as the LORD's blessing.