(Let me begin by saying that I was not thinking of one specific church, person, or leadership group when writing this post. This is an issue I’ve seen in almost every church I’ve been in or visited. If you have complaints or hate mail, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org)
It all starts simple enough. God puts something on your heart and you begin building – working day and night. For a while, you’re on your own. If all goes well, you put together a team. Coffee is bought, meetings are hosted, and your ministry grows legs. This is your God-ordained baby. Good folks approach you and tell you that they are blessed. You wonder how the church ever did without this ministry. Your ministry might be making coffee, leading worship, teaching sunday school, or even pastoring. Whatever it is, this ministry has become part of the church service. And you thank God for allowing you to be a part of it.
Months or years pass and either you or the ministry begin to feel sterile. It may even look the same or better than it did from birth, but you know that the guts have been removed. You know, deep down, that the spirit has gone.
You decide, despite mental anguish and guilt, to leave this ministry to someone “more capable.” Leadership then takes it on themselves to fill your spot. After all, there must be someone to carry the torch and lead this established ministry. No matter the state or health of the ministry, it has become integrated into the church and your position must be satisfied. Eventually, someone decides to give it a shot. Usually, they are under qualified and are led by a sense of guilt rather than a Spirit of power, but they do their best and for that, they should be commended….or shot. The problem however, isn’t with the person who left or the one who fills their shoes. The problem is our conviction that a ministry once begun, must continue, despite crutches for those serving and those being served.
I firmly believe that every ministry, or rather every form or model of a ministry, has a shelf life. I believe that we must be willing to let a ministry “die” when it has run it’s course. God gifts and empowers certain individuals for a certain task for a certain time. We diminish a ministry’s legacy when we put it on life support. This is simple enough when it’s a ministry that “doesn’t matter.” But what if it’s teaching or worship? I’m not trying to devalue the place of teaching or worship in our services. I’m just saying that it’s better to have a Spirit filled ministry than a “man filled” ministry (I hate myself for using a phrase like that).
What I mean practically is that if there is no one who feels led or wants to lead worship that Sunday, then don’t have worship. Instead, use the time to pray for one another or just cut the meeting time short by twenty minutes. If there is no one to run the children’s ministry, then don’t have it. Let the children come into the sanctuary. Let there be chaos until someone, truly, truly feels empowered by the Spirit to begin again. In the meantime, people will leave. Let them. Better to have a Spirit led ministry than have individuals carrying a ministry like pallbearers.
So put a DNR tag on your ministry and know that when it has run it’s course, it doesn’t mean that you or the ministry has lost favor with God. Just let it die and let God start something brand new.