Nancy Sure Didn't Waste Any Time! (Nine Potential Pitfalls of Ministry)

I’m going to need to touch up my makeup. Nancy Leigh DeMoss didn’t just make me cry; she undid me (in a good way). Or rather, the Holy Spirit did through her . . .

“The longer I’m in ministry,” she began, “the more I realize how vulnerable we are to falling. Only by the grace of a faithful God can we finish well.” Nancy shared nine autobiographical pitfalls she’s come perilously close to in the past thirty-five years of vocational ministry. Something tells me every single one of those 1,000 women’s ministry leaders and pastors’ wives could relate. I sure could! I think you’ll be able to, as well:  

1. Losing the wonder.

You’ve heard it said that familiarity breeds contempt, but I think it can also breed complacency. Then ministry becomes a job, rather than a passion for a person—the Person of Jesus Christ.

When’s the last time you stopped and thanked the Lord for the privilege of ministry?

2. Neglecting our personal relationship with the Lord.

“No amount of activity in the King’s service will make up for neglect of the King Himself.” –R.M. M’Cheyne

Trying to live on yesterday’s manna and experiences with God is not the way to do it. It’s the danger of service without devotion (Luke 10, Mary & Martha).

I find it increasingly difficult to find a quiet place and a quiet heart, especially with all these tools like Twitter. The question to ask yourself is, would I be willing to unplug if that’s what it took for me to be where I need to be in my relationship with the Lord?

Make a beeline to His presence!

3. Proclaiming truth we’re not living.

The danger is that we’re talking further down the road than we’re actually walking.

A. W. Towzer says the curse of the 21st century is we think that because we know about something, we think we have it.

In 1 Cor. 11:1, Paul says, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” He didn’t say, “Download my podcast” or “read my blog.” He said, “Follow my life, because by God’s grace, I’m following Christ.” It’s not just who we are when we’re on the “platform,” but who I am in those hidden, private moments.

Can I say to others, “Live your life just as I do, and God will bless you? Study God’s Word like I do, love others like I do, have the kind of prayer life like I do, and you’ll be a blessed woman.”

Romans 2:21-24: “. . . you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’”

If your Christianity is real, it will work in the four walls of your home.

4. Relying on the natural vs. the supernatural.

Probably one of the reasons you have the position you do is because you have some natural gifts and abilities. The more gifted you are naturally, the greater the potential danger of relying on those natural gifts and abilities rather than on God. I began to ask the Lord to never let me get to the place where I could do what I do without His power. He’s been faithful to answer that prayer request! It’s a scary place to be, but a good place to be.

“If there’s any explanation for our Christian service, it will be burnt up in the day of testing as wood, hay, and straw. The only work that will last for eternity is that which is produced in humble reliance on the power of the Spirit.” –William Gurnall

Am I allowing God to push me out of my comfort zone of what I think I can handle?

5. Leaving the pathway of humility.

When this happens, we become enamored with self. Saul started with such a sense of inadequacy, but then He became big in His eyes, and God became small.

The wise person in Proverbs solicits counsel. When is last time I asked someone close to me, “Are there any blind spots in my life?”

Are you elated by praise? If you are, you’ll be deflated by criticism.

When we’re proud, we don’t give others room to fail. Become an intercessor rather than a critic.

6. Settling for status quo.

Nancy’s father would often say, “Attempt something so impossible that unless God is in it, it’s doomed for failure.”

I love the story of Caleb who at eighty-five says, “I want another mountain to conquer! I want more territory for the glory of God.” 

7. Serving without love.

If these are the greatest two commandments, could it be that the greatest two sins are to love God with less than my being, and to not love others as I love myself?

8. Losing perspective.

“The supreme need in every hour of difficulty and distress is for a fresh vision of God.” –G. Campbell Morgan.

We forget how little we are. We have this surpassing treasure of the life of Christ in earthen vessels. Clay pots. That’s all we are. The surpassing treasure we have is not us; it’s Christ!

9. Seeking comfort and convenience.

We want to coast. In 2 Samuel 11, David stayed home in the palace at the time the kings go out to battle, and he got in trouble. And that was probably in his fifties, after years of loving God and writing psalms. The battle didn’t need David, but David needed the battle.

Which pitfall did you resonate with most? For me, it was a combo of four and seven. I’ve become enamored with myself, and forgotten that I’m just a clay pot, and the surpassing treasure is Christ in me, not me! (Yep, you can pray for me.)

How about you?

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About the Author

Paula Marsteller

Paula Marsteller

Paula has served with Revive Our Hearts for thirteen years. She is the author of Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom. There's nothing she loves to share more than the gospel-centered truths that have so transformed her own life: what it means on a daily basis to be "dead to sin, alive to God, and in Christ Jesus." Paula, Trevor, and their son, Iren, make their home in New York.