By Matt Funk, Aspen Grove Church • Parker, CO
For more than a year and a half, the already difficult and taxing job of pastoral ministry has been made all the more challenging.
Lockdowns, masks, social distancing, losing or altering facilities, figuring out online streaming, constantly pivoting to meet needs, and ultimately losing members, or at least attenders, has made pastoral ministry more draining that it was before. You have likely felt as if greater effort has yielded lesser results. While there have hopefully been moments of success and great joy, every small victory has been hard-fought. If you are like me, you have more often found yourself to be weary and burdened than serving the Lord with gladness. While we know the command to take joy in our sufferings, it doesn’t change the fact that it still feels like suffering. This is not what you signed up for. This is not how you expected ministry to go. This is not what you envisioned that God would do.
You’re likely familiar with Ephesians 2:10 which says,
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
This encouraging reminder comes right at the end of Paul’s famous explanation of the work of God in our salvation. It is by grace we have been saved, not by our own works. We know this. We preach this. And yet, so often, in the midst of the work set before us, we may forget Paul’s next idea. We are the workmanship of God. We are being transformed day by day. Our hearts, minds, and spirits are being renewed and restored by Him! While we, as ministry professionals, can so easily get caught up and even obsessed with God’s work in the church, we must be careful not to lose sight of God’s work inside of each of us. The transformation comes first, then come the good works.
And the encouragement that we see here goes even further. We are God’s workmanship, His custom-made creations. And He has made us for particular purposes. He has prepared particular works beforehand for us. He has transformed us and is transforming us to walk in the custom-designed path of His good and perfect will.
It is no accident that you find yourself in this situation. God is not surprised by this pandemic. He is not deterred by the state of His church or the direction of our country. He is not fearful. None of it is beyond His sovereign control. No matter how out-of-control it all feels to us, it is not. God placed you right where you are for good works that He prepared beforehand for you. Not anyone else. You. He prepared the work for you and you for the work. He has transformed you and equipped you for this, and that transformation is ongoing.
Did your church shrink during the pandemic? Take heart. You are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to pastor the church and the people that you have. You are uniquely being transformed and equipped to do so, to further the Kingdom in unique and unexpected ways.
The person you reach out to while they are suffering during this time matters. It is a work prepared in advance for you. The people that you have helped to grow in the faith and knowledge of the Word, even if it is only a handful or a fraction, are being transformed because of your ministry, according to the will of God. Don’t let the nagging burden in your mind about who is not there distract you from those that are there. God has prepared you to pastor them. And He has prepared them to be pastored by you.
If your livestream failed yet again; if the only feedback you receive feels like criticism; if your best efforts to serve your community have been shot down; if you are frustrated at the lack of volunteers; if offerings are low and expenses are high; if the work of God just feels slow; be reminded today that God has not failed. His workmanship in you is good and effective. And He has been shaping you and developing you for exactly what you are facing right now. There are good works prepared for you in advance by God. Walk in them.