Five Secrets to Staying in Ministry

The Best of the Best series continues today with a timely message of encouragement from Linda Green. I’m cheering for you! —Leslie Bennett, Women’s Ministry Initiatives

Twenty-two years ago, when my church leaders asked me to serve as a director of children’s ministry, I promptly said, “No, thank you.” Honestly, I loved being at home with my children and discipling the women that God brought my way. Although I had once taught school, this position didn’t fit into “my plan.” But it was God’s plan, and over the next few months, He made that very clear. Thankfully, I said, “Yes, Lord,” not realizing that my call to ministry would continue over more than two decades and lead to becoming the first women’s ministry director at our large church.

If I said the way has always been easy, I would be lying (and you wouldn’t believe me anyway). I’ve lost count of how many times I have thought, said, or been tempted to believe that I couldn’t keep going, that ministry was too hard and costly, and that it was time to step down. Health struggles, intense family needs, aging parents, seasons of personal suffering, and friends who retired were all sources of temptation, testing my resolve to persevere in ministry.

While I’ve learned many essential truths necessary to staying the course, the main thing that has held me back from what seemed like the easier path was this: it wasn’t God’s voice that was calling me out.

Perhaps you have found yourself questioning whether it’s time to pass on the baton to another. After all, there are seasons of ministry. I certainly don’t want to be the last to figure out that I should have left long before I did. However, I believe there is a greater temptation to quit too soon than to outstay your welcome. Because of that, I want to offer some biblical principles that have helped me persevere through leadership changes, church conflict, seasons of loneliness, shifting ministry expectations, and personal weariness.

Five Biblical Principles to Persevere in Ministry

1. Remember the Call

“See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”—Colossians 4:17

God saves us and then calls us all to proclaim the name of Christ through the gospel. Those who have been given the gift of leadership and the calling to ministry, however, must recognize this as both a privilege and a sober responsibility, one that will be greatly rewarding and very costly at the same time. I am truly grateful for the deeper work God has done in my life in the midst of seasons when I was most tempted to quit.

Today, countless voices are telling women to find themselves and follow their hearts, including some who claim to be followers of Christ. Gospel-centered ministry will exalt Christ by discipling women to confidently know who they are and why they matter according to God’s Word. We must be faithful to this call all the way to the end.

2. Remember Who You Are Serving

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. —Colossians 3:23–24

Peter adds to Paul’s admonition by saying we must serve humbly. Pastor Tim Chester exhorts us to “let go of any merits we think we have and cling resolutely to Christ.” Far too many leaders have been shipwrecked on the rocks of self-glory while striving to build their own kingdom ministry. Pride is subtle and can sneak up on us. For example, how will we respond when no one is expressing appreciation for all we are doing? (God used a long season such as this to personally test me!) “Self” notices the seeming injustice and begins to protest, pointing out how many others are being praised. At the first sign of envy, discouragement, or resentment, we must repent of selfish ambition and pride that seeks credit for what God has done through us. Our hearts must be wholly oriented toward serving for the Lord’s glory, or any ministry we do will only be in vain. Pride will never take us joyfully over the finish line.

3. Remember You Are Engaged in a Battle for Truth

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. —1 Peter 5:8

Ministry leaders must expect and always be dressed for warfare, remembering that the enemy hates what we are doing! Because he wants to keep women in bondage to sin, he will prowl around, filling their lives with busyness, worldly distractions, unruly emotions, and anything else that will keep them from grasping the power of God’s Word and prayer. He will also do all he can to discourage us from continuing in the work God has called us to.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians reminds us that victory comes by knowing and applying the Word of God and through ongoing prayer. It is won by speaking the gospel one to another and being alert to the lies Satan is sowing among us. Persevering in ministry also requires a team of committed godly women who will hold up our arms in ministry through ongoing faithful prayer.

4. Remember You Are Nothing Apart from Christ

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. Colossians 1:28–29

In John 15:1–5, Jesus taught that we are like branches that depend on the vine (Christ) for life. If the branch is separated from the vine, it dies, becomes useless, and is thrown into the fire.

Ministry regularly serves to remind me of my inadequacy apart from Christ. I don’t have enough wisdom, love, or strength to serve the needs of those who look to me. At the same time, I’m aware that my natural tendency is to try to meet every need and resort to my own words of wisdom. Early in ministry, I would go home at the end of a day, completely exhausted and burdened. By God’s grace, He reminded me that my call is to listen with compassion to suffering women, remind them of the truth of the gospel, encourage them to pursue holiness in the God-appointed circumstances of their lives, and pray for God’s help and provision. This has not only been more helpful to women; it also brings me joy rather than a heavy spirit. Our job is always to point our women to Christ, their only true hope.

5. Remember to Invest in Next Generation Leaders

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.—Hebrews 13:7

The implication of this verse is that we must give younger women worthy lives to imitate! This means that others should see Christ exalted in our lives both personally and publicly. But we must also be intentional to invest in, train, and prepare those who God is raising up to lead the next generation of women in gospel-exalting ministry.

Just as Paul raised up Timothy, Titus, and others to be faithful to the ministry entrusted to them, we must work with one eye on our current ministry and the other to preparing others to take over when God calls us out. One of the greatest joys of longevity in ministry is having the opportunity to pour ourselves into younger women who love Christ and His Word and have a passion for teaching women to glorify God through their divine design as women.

Remembering each of these things continues to strengthen me through the highs and lows of ministry. But one of the more unexpected blessings that I’ve enjoyed as a result of staying in ministry has been to enjoy some of the fruit of my labors even now. I know full well that all these good things have come from the Lord God Himself. The privilege He has given me of serving women in my local church has been among the greatest joys of my life.

Dear Father, thank you for the privilege of serving your precious daughters in the local church. We praise you for Jesus Christ, who saved us and set us apart by your love to bring glory to your name. We ask for your help as we strive to be faithful to the call you have placed upon our lives to lead women in the grace and truth that exalts Christ and your eternal kingdom. As we set our minds on things above, we pray that you will direct our hearts into God’s love and to Christ’s perseverance. For your glory, amen.

About the Author

Linda Green

Linda Green is the coauthor of He Gives More Grace with her daughter, Sarah Walton. The thirty-day devotional offers biblical hope, encouragement, and wisdom for mothers. Linda is married to Ray and is a mother to three grown children.