When Ministry Seems to Fail

It’s the beginning of a new year and with that means I’ve started a new Bible study with the ladies at my church. Carrying the new books with me into church one Sunday, I handed them out to the ladies who usually attend. A few people said they couldn’t come this session, some were noncommittal. I nodded my head, smiled and said, “Well, if you change your mind, you are always welcome.”

But inside, my heart sighed.

Doing ministry is hard. There’s so much work, effort, planning, prayer, and time invested. And when the ministry isn’t growing or we can’t even get the ministry off the ground, we feel like failures. We may question whether we should keep going, is this what God really wants us to do, and what are we doing wrong?

If you are in that place in your ministry, I want to encourage you today.

1. Numbers aren’t always an indicator of success. As Americans, we highly value growth and success. We love when things get bigger and better. But in God’s economy, He sees things a bit differently. When Jesus died, he had only a few followers left. Those five thousand who had enjoyed a free meal? They were long gone.

So if you have a small, but dedicated group of people you minister to, don’t give up. God did amazing work through the remaining disciples, spreading his word to the whole world.

2. Remember that it is God’s work you are doing, not your work. Sometimes, we take so much ownership of our ministry that we forget it is God’s work we are doing. We take failures and losses personally. We may despair over it. We may even resent people for not participating. But when we remember that it is God’s work, we are free to serve him despite setbacks.

3. It’s always a good thing to evaluate a ministry. It’s good to take a step back regularly to assess where you are and where you are headed. But not because the ministry is small. Look at what God has called you to do and measure your work against it. Seek God in prayer and ask for his wisdom in your ministry. Is your ministry bringing him glory? Is it pointing people to Christ or away from him? Is it’s focus too much on the details and programs or is it on the people and the purpose of the ministry? Remember that sometimes, the smallest of ministries often make the most deep and long lasting impact in people’s lives.

4. Remember this post about the role of evil forces in attacking our ministry.

When God is being glorified and lives are being changed by the power of the gospel, a ministry is thriving, no matter it’s size. Remember that “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:14) That is, our ministries won’t have the entire world knocking on the door. And lastly, the greatest encouragement of all to our ministry is this truth, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)

How about you? What are your experiences with ministry?

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