You Can Enjoy Ministry Again (If You Do This One Thing)

Bob Allums is the Director of seeJesus Seminars: A Praying Life and served as a pastor for many years before joining the mission.

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Who took the joy out of ministry? How can we -- who have immersed ourselves in and committed our lives to the best news on earth -- feel so unhappy in our work?

Is it because we constantly see people we care about wreck their lives? Is it our unconscious attempt to distance ourselves from some overly-emotional, anti-intellectual strains in Christianity? Is it because we're weary of being criticized? Or simply that we're tired of spending untold hours on sermon prep only to peer into the sea of faces and find people checking email?

There are probably many reasons for our collective absence of joy in the pastorate, but I will offer one: it is because we are disconnected from the source. I don't mean this in a generic, "we-should-all-be-closer-to-God" sense. I have something more specific in mind.

When Jesus briefed his disciples in the Farewell Discourse of John 15-17, he promised them that they'd be okay -- better than okay, actually -- when he left. Why? Because he was going to give them the Holy Spirit. 

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13-15, ESV)

Jesus begins here to paint a picture of the intricate way that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are bound together. Tim Keller writes:

"The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are adoring one another, giving glorifying love to one another and delighting in one another. . . . God is, therefore, profoundly happy, filled with perfect joy -- not some abstract tranquility but the fierce happiness of dynamic loving relationships." (Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, 67)

Most of us don't think of God as happy -- not really. But Scripture shows us that the Trinity is filled with happiness, and that theirs is a happiness in which we can share. Jesus says, "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (John 15:11). Jesus is promising us the same, overflowing, must-be-shared joy that he experiences in perfect communion with God.

The truth is that we, as Christians and--yes, as pastors--are invited into happiness, into joy. There's a clear pathway for entering it, and it's not a secret. But it's also not easy. We have to reconnect to the source through prayer. "Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:24). Did you catch that? Jesus assures us that the joy we long for (and have nearly given up on finding) will be ours when we commune with the Father and the Son through the Spirit.

At the A Praying Life Pastors' Conference, we will explore how to share in the joy of Christ through prayer. We'll learn how to build our faith and our prayer life through prayer stories and explore a practical, effective, and sustainable system for prayer using prayer cards.

Conference image 

We can't promise that strengthening your prayer life will make people stop checking emails during your sermons or turning their lives into train wrecks. But we can promise that it will reconnect you to the source of joy, making your own worship more heartfelt and robust and giving you fresh courage and confidence. And the truth is, people will see and respond to the difference in you. Even if they are suspicious, no one can resist joy.

- Bob Allums, Director of A Praying Life 

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