Ministry is full of stressful moments. Sometimes it’s conflict between members or staff. Sometimes it’s just the week after a high-attendance Sunday, like Easter, and we’re concerned about following up.
We all face a variety of issues in ministry that raise our blood pressure. Fortunately, we’ve got a great model for ministry in Jesus.
His life was under constant demands. Crowds were always pressing up against him, asking him to take care of their needs. He was misunderstood and criticized by religious people. Sound familiar?
But through it all, Jesus never got depressed or discouraged. He never gave up.
How did he manage to be at peace under pressure? And how can you experience that kind of peace, too?
1. Know who you are.
“When Jesus spoke again to the people he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12 NIV).
More than 18 times in the Bible Jesus says, “I am . . .” and then gives a descriptor. He was always defining himself. He was saying, “I know who I am.” There was no doubt about it. As a result, he wasn’t under pressure.
Often, we get stressed when we try to be someone we’re not. We put on masks and hide from others. When you do that, you’re always afraid you won’t be able keep up the facade. Then comes stress. If you’ve never come to terms with who you are, it’s like trying to live a double life.
Counterbalance this stress with an internal sense of satisfaction about who you are and who God made you to be. You discover who you are by discovering whose you are.
2. Know whom you’re trying to please.
“By myself I can do nothing: I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me” (John 5:30 NIV).
Jesus dedicated his whole life to pleasing God—not himself or others. He realized that pleasing God would always be the right move. You can’t please everyone, so Jesus focused on pleasing his Heavenly Father instead.
And he did. At the Transfiguration, God said of Jesus: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 KJV).
If Jesus couldn’t please everyone, you can’t either.
You can please Crowd A, and Crowd B will be upset at you. Sometimes I’m asked how I handle criticism. It’s simple—I know who I am, and I know whom I’m trying to please.
I’m trying to please God. I’m really only responsible to him. When somebody criticizes me unfairly, I say, “I’m God’s man with God’s message for this situation.”
3. Know what you’re trying to accomplish.
“Jesus answered, ‘Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and know where I am going’” (John 8:14 NIV).
Jesus knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish. You should, too. Get your life organized around some basic goals. Plan your priorities.
Those most stressed are those who have no purpose. Everyone operates under one of two principles: priorities or pressures. If you don’t decide what’s important in your life and what you want to accomplish, other people will decide for you.
Having a plan keeps you from being a victim of the tyranny of the urgent—just going around and putting out fires. No one likes to get to the end of the day and wonder if they accomplished anything meaningful. Busyness doesn’t always mean we’re achieving something significant. It can just mean we’re walking around in a circle.
Clear goals will simplify your ministry and your family life—and reduce stress in the process.
Read Part 2 — “4 More Secrets to a Less-Stress Ministry.”