It is deeply tragic when ministry leaders lose their ministry, when sin sidelines them for a season. Not only is it painful for the leader, but also it is painful for the people who have been impacted and influenced through their leadership. Because sin is always crouching at the door and because Satan prowls around like a roaring lion looking to devour, we shouldn’t be surprised when great leaders implode. We should grieve, pray, and love, but we shouldn’t think ourselves better. In fact, here are five ways to lose our own ministries:
1. Believe in yourself.
If you want to lose your ministry, believe in yourself. When someone stumbles, struggles, or falls and you think, “That will never happen to me,” you are placing your confidence in the wrong place. If you believe in your ability to stand strong, you are standing on shaky ground. Believing in yourself is a clear indication of pride that leads to destruction. If David, who penned many of the psalms, could crumble—any of us can. If Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, could end his ministry importing idols, surely we are susceptible to idolatry in our lives. If Peter, whom God used to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, could foolishly reject Gentile believers, then surely our lives can drift from our doctrine.
2. Isolate yourself.
If you want to lose your ministry, isolate yourself. After all, “no one understands you or knows the pressure you face.” We should remember that before King David committed adultery and murder, he isolated himself. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Sin demands to have a man by himself,” and a leader can be alone in the midst of others if the leader is not seeking or receiving counsel and correction from wise leaders. If you only surround yourself with people who validate everything you think, you’re actually isolated with merely the impression of community.
3. Place “the ministry” above your family.
If you want to lose your ministry, neglect your family. The most important gathering is the one that meets at your house. The most important group in your ministry is the one under your own roof. If you place “the ministry” above your family, your family will be hardened to the ministry and you won’t set a good and godly example. According to Jonathan Edwards, “Every Christian family ought to be a little church.” He stated:
Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church, consecrated to Christ, and wholly influenced and governed by his rules. And family education and order are some of the chief means of grace. If these fail, all other means are likely to prove ineffectual. If these are duly maintained, all the means of grace will be likely to prosper and be successful.
Every family should be a little church, and your little church should not be squandered for pursuits of “ministry success.”
4. Preach repentance for everyone else.
If you want to lose your ministry, stop repenting. If you want to lose your ministry, believe that the messages you herald are for everyone else and not for yourself.
5. Use people to build ministry.
If you want to lose your ministry, use people to build your own kingdom and agenda. Leadership that is Christian in nature is the exact opposite. Godly leaders use ministry to build people, not people to build agendas. They believe and behave on the basis that people are image-bearers of God, sons and daughters of the King, and holy priests gifted by God.
There is a better way. Instead of believing in yourself, understand your weakness and rejoice in the grace God gives. Instead of isolating yourself, throw yourself fully into the messiness and beauty of Christian community. Instead of placing “the ministry” above your family, minister to your family. Instead of preaching repentance for everyone else, first preach repentance to yourself. And instead of using people to build a ministry, use ministry to build and serve people.