Have you heard the old joke that ministry would be great if it weren’t for all the people? Be honest, have you ever thought this was true?
You don’t have to be in ministry for long to realize just how personal this life is. We work with people—sinful, fallen, imperfect people. We work with people who will sometimes hurt our feelings.
And we, in turn, will hurt theirs.
We live, work and play with the people in our churches. We pour into their lives, and they pour into ours. We are with them during their most vulnerable seasons, ones of birth, illness, victory and death.
People will hurt your feelings. When that happens, you have a choice. You can either take it personally and seek to inflict hurt in return, or you can choose to respond as God commands us in Ephesians. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).
Let's take a closer look at the three biblical responses found in Ephesians.
1. Be humble and gentle. Being humble means taking ourselves out of the spotlight. I love how the dictionary defines humility as “freedom from pride or arrogance.” Pride and arrogance only exist to enslave us to ourselves. Through pride and arrogance, we see all the ways we are overlooked and the ways our husbands or children have been hurt. Being humble is being free from self. In commanding us to approach others with humility and gentleness, God is freeing us to love them regardless of what they have done to us.
2. Be patient. We work with real people—people who are flawed and sinful but who are hopefully on their own journey to holiness. As we lead them, they will mess up; so will we. We need to be patient with one another, remembering that we are all tempted, that we all sin and that none of us will reach perfection until we see Jesus. We need to give ourselves patience and extend it to the people with whom we minister.
3. Bear with one another in love. Why did you feel called to ministry? I hope your answer includes a love for people and a desire to lead them to know and love Jesus. When ministry becomes difficult, we need to remind ourselves of why we began in the first place. We are commanded to “bear” with one another. The Lord knows it is going to be a struggle for us to love one another, but He will give us the grace to do so.
A few years ago, we transitioned from one ministry position to another. I had served in several areas in the church we were leaving, and I felt like God must be growing me for something similar (and if I am honest, bigger) in the new ministry. But those were not the plans God had for me. I felt overlooked and unwanted. No one seemed to see how I could contribute in our new ministry position, and I felt like I was wasting the abilities God had grown in me. My feelings were hurt, and there were times I took it out on those God had chosen to use in the areas I wanted (in my selfishness) to work.
As I looked back on that season of ministry, I saw God was taking away my plans and desires so He could give me His desires and grow me in new ways. Whatever hurt you are facing in your current ministry position, I want to encourage you that God is not going to waste this pain. He is going to grow you into a better servant and minister for the gospel, if you will yield to His teaching.
How we respond to those who hurt us matters. We are sharing the gospel through our actions by forgiving our offenders in humility and gentleness and by showing patience and love with those we serve. We don’t take things personally because we are super-Christians, but we do so through the enabling of the Holy Spirit because we desire to grow in godliness.
This blog post was written by Beth Holmes for Flourish - Ministry Wives on February 17, 2017. She is a minister's wife and mom living in Owensboro, Kentucky, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2014. After spending a year learning to be brave through cancer treatments, God is teaching her again how to celebrate in 2016. Join her journey at bethholmes.wordpress.comMore from this author.
1. How do you respond when you are hurt by someone in the church?
2. How is your response different if the hurt comes from someone outside the church, i.e. a family member, a friend?
3. What is your response when you are the one who causes the hurt?
4. What are some positive actions you can take when you are hurt?
Community Requires Vulnerability
For the first eight years of our ministry, I didn’t have a friend to my name. In those same years, I birthed and stayed home with three children, and I remember willing myself not to get sick because I didn’t know who I would call for help if I did. Community was something I created for other people, not something I enjoyed myself. At least, that’s how I felt.
When we prepared to plant out of that church, my husband gathered prospective core team members in our living room and asked, “When you dream of what church could be, what is it that you think of?” For me, the answer was simple, and I timidly spoke out loud what I’d held inside for so long.
“I don’t want to feel as if I’m standing outside of community, helping it happen but not enjoying it myself. I want our church to be the kind where I get to enjoy the inside. I want to have friends.”
What I didn’t yet realize is that community isn’t something that comes to us; it’s something that we go toward. We make choices that either invites community or hinders the very thing we long for. The reasons I’d struggled in friendship were many—my lack of initiation, the very specific parameters I’d placed around what type of friend I wanted and how they would relate to me, time constraints that I used as an excuse, but, primary among them, is that I chose not to take the risk of vulnerability with other women.
God gave me a do-over with church planting because the difficult nature of the work made it nearly impossible to hide behind carefully maintained facades or self-sufficiency. My spiritual, physical and emotional neediness pointed like arrows toward asking wise and faithful women for help. And so, I did.
Vulnerability is the spark for us to enjoy and help cultivate true community. Only through vulnerability can we fulfill...read more
When you think of emotional maturity what do you think of? Do you think of someone who doesn’t blink an eye at human critique, disappointments, relational hurt, strenuous schedules, or an unexpected bill? Some zen goddess whose inner thoughts are like a peaceful field with wildflowers blowing in the wind? Emotional maturity is not the ability to renounce certain emotions never to feel them again, but the wisdom to understand and manage your emotions appropriately. Controlling the outward reaction to our emotions is not enough. Sure, we want to avoid mishandling our emotions and negatively affecting someone that we are leading. Beyond this, emotional maturity is vital for the soul care of a leader. We can control our outward responses, while negative emotions take a serious toll on the health of our heart and mind causing burnout, discouragement, or much worse...read more
Grab a Face, Encourage a Heart
One of the best things we can do for our friendships, whether fledging or lifelong, is to become cheerleaders for other women.
Don't we all crave a cheerleader friend? Absolutely! We don't want cotton-candy flattery or even the niceties about our appearance or choice of couch pillows, nor do we want silent cheerleaders who think but don't speak words of encouragement. We want a friend of the super athletic cheerleader variety, who exerts enthusiasm and energy in exhorting us on, even as they do their own faith-thing at our side. These kind of friends are rare, and we can't guarantee we'll have a friend like that. But we certainly can be that kind of friend to others.
I tell you what: being a cheerleader for other women can be awkward. I know because I am the queen of awkwardness and, frankly, I don't care. I see too many women standing on the sidelines of life feeling like a failure when, in fact, they are walking by faith and adorning themselves with the glorious beauty of good works. They need to know that God's fingerprints are all over them! ...read more
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