Ministry Is Uncomfortable

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Do you remember your first job—your first real job? I remember mine. I was so excited to put all that I had learned in college to the test. I was filled with ideas and zeal and passion. I anticipated being part of changing the world for the better.

That is until my first day on the job came, and I realized I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was. I knew less than I thought I knew. And everything was a lot harder than I expected.

Sometimes ministry is like that. We think we are prepared to serve the Church for the Lord and then realize it’s not what we expected. We find ourselves stretched beyond what we are capable. We find ourselves outside our comfort zone.  

Perhaps we’ve taken on teaching a Bible study class. We spend days pouring over the passage, digging through commentaries, and even learning a few new Greek words along the way. We arrive to class excited to share all that we’ve learned. Then something happens to interrupt our plans. Perhaps someone asks a theological question we aren’t prepared to answer or the group discussion goes down a rabbit trail from which we can’t find the way out.

Or maybe we lead a mentoring group of young women and receive a call from one of them in the midst of a busy day. She’s in crisis and needs wisdom and prayer. But our to-do list is long, and we just don’t have margin for a long conversation. Not only that, we feel insufficient to provide the help she needs.

Here’s the truth: Ministry is many things. It’s a wonderful opportunity to serve the Lord and use the gifts He’s given for His glory and the building up of the Church. But one thing ministry is not is comfortable.

Ministry Is Often Inconvenient

Ministry usually doesn’t fit into our timetable. People often need help at inconvenient times, or the church needs a last minute fill-in. Or our lesson is interrupted. For those of us who like a neat and orderly life, the interruptions of ministry can make us uncomfortable. But the truth is that it’s often in those interruptions where real ministry takes place.

In Acts 6, Philip was called to be a deacon, to look over the practical affairs of the Church. But in Acts 8, the Spirit called him to go into the desert and meet with an Egyptian to explain the book of Isaiah. It certainly wasn’t planned; rather it was more of a divine appointment. As much as we like to plan out our own days and our work in ministry, we have to remember that God is sovereign over every circumstance, including unexpected phone calls and rabbit trails in the midst of a lesson. These situations become divinely placed moments for us to meet people where they are with the hope of the gospel.

Ministry Is Often Messy

While ministry often involves teaching and instructing people in the truth of God’s Word, instruction has to intersect with a person’s daily life. We don’t work with people in a vacuum. They have to take what they’ve learned and apply it to real life—and real life is often messy. That means we might hear painful stories, walk with people through difficult trials, and help people up when they stumble. Often our eyes are opened to realities we never knew, and that can be uncomfortable.

On the night our Savior was betrayed, He shared a final meal with His disciples. After the meal, He got down and began to wash their feet. It was an unthinkable act, the God of the universe taking on the job of a servant! Jesus then told the disciples, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:14–15). Jesus set an example for us that we too would serve others, just as He served us. And that often means getting uncomfortable.  

Ministry Is Never Easy

Ministry will challenge us in ways we never expected. We’ll realize how little we know, be stretched in places we didn’t know we needed stretching, and face questions we never thought we’d hear. We’ll feel ill-prepared, overwhelmed, and at a loss.

When Jesus called His disciples to go to all the world and make disciples, He didn’t promise them it would be easy. He didn’t promise them a comfortable time. He told them to take up their cross and follow Him, warning them that the cost of being His disciple would be great.

Yet in the midst of the hard, He promised His grace and the work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). While we won’t feel sufficient in ourselves for the task of ministry, God will give us what we need to do to fulfill His purposes in us (2 Peter 1:3). Yes, the tasks of ministry will be hard, but He will make us capable through His Spirit and His Word at work in us.

Our expectations make a big difference. It did for me in my first job. It also makes a difference when it comes to our work in ministry. We can’t expect ministry to be comfortable. It’ll often be inconvenient, sometimes messy, and never easy. But that’s when we know we are in the right place. For a servant can do no less than his master.

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