by Dan O’Deens   September 18, 2018

Ministry is capable of sapping the passion from your soul. Ministry can steal the joy of serving others.  Ministry can turn the optimist into a pessimist.  Ministry can leave you isolated rather than relationally whole. How can this be?

Empty what is full. Fill what is empty.  The church exists to reproduce itself, and this only happens by the church pouring itself out. The harvest Jesus spoke about requires our own incarnation, self-emptying, and self-sacrifice. (Matthew 9:37)

One of the most painful/joyful realities of leadership is that training leaders is inherently sacrificial. This means God has called us to pour into some men so that people in another church, another city, another network, another part of the world will be helped.  Onesimus came to Jesus under Paul’s ministry, yet Paul considered that his disciple might serve a need of a fellow brother Philemon more than his own.

Ministry at some point can become all about us.  We become insular.  That simply means ‘ignorant of or uninterested in cultures, ideas or people outside our own experience, values or ministries.  Ministry can be deceiving and become all about me or my own ideas.

Sacrifice is simply giving up something for God; in other words, giving to God something we see as valuable, or for His sake refusing something we see as valuable.

Is Jesus really enough?   “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”  Philippians 3:8   “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Philippians 1:21

The harvest is best understood in farming metaphors.  Perspective is everything.  Ministry often looks like farming.   When the farmer sows seed, the field looks exactly in the evening as it does in the morning.  At the end of a long hard day there is no visible measure for his labor.  But each passing days brings real growth that cannot be seen in the day to day.  Over the long haul of the season, there is growth and that growth leads to real fruit.

It is possible that you are benefiting from the labor of someone else.  “One sows and another reaps. I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor.  Others have labored, and you have benefited from their labor” (John 4:37-38).  Isn’t that the point?  I benefit from others and others benefit from me.

When we give ‘it’ away, it always comes back to us.  Ministry can only rob us of all its fruit, goodness and joy when we focus on our own return on investment.   When what we do is for His glory and to serve others, joy will fill your soul.   Jesus said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’  Acts 20:35

Has ministry drained you and left you thirsting for joy?   Come back to Jesus all you who are thirsty.  Only he can quench your thirst.  “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.”  Proverbs 11:25

Give it away. Don’t hold tightly.  Be a blessing.  Embrace the JOY of MINISTRY again!