Working in ministry is a blessing. As a daughter of a minister I grew up being involved in the lives of others. Frequently, my father would take me to nursing homes to sing and pray with senior Saints or anyone who would listen. There were many trips put on hold while my Dad stopped to help people on the side of the road. Bible studies and fellowship was common in our home and we were constantly in other peoples’ homes as well. Ministry was just a part of life. Now, I am married to a minister. Our ministry team (that is what we like to call our family) has been in fulltime service for 7 years. We are focused on ministry.
Unfortunately, it is all too common for those doing God’s work to live with spiritual neglect and fatigue. Ministers spend so much time helping others and trying to save other peoples’ souls that they often neglect their own. Ministers are focused on mending marriages and rescuing families while their own marriages and families may be suffering and deteriorating. Why is this? Why do we often see those who have devoted their lives to serving others as ministers of the Lord’s body falling away, getting terribly discouraged, struggling in their relationships, becoming bitter or unfruitful? I propose the root of the problem, the disease causing all of these symptoms is that some have lost their focus.
Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-39).
Sometimes we mix this up. We are not loving God first. While it is important to love our neighbor and serve others, we cannot do so effectively or correctly unless our personal relationship with God is our first priority and our main focus. We often think if we are working hard and serving tirelessly that proves our intimacy with God. We start to live a ministry-focused life instead of a God-focused life. When people ask us about our relationship with God we often answer with a list of what we are doing. We may say, “Great, I read my Bible every day and I go to church whenever the doors are open!” Or perhaps, “God and I are doing great, I started a Bible study at my house and spoke at two Ladies’ Days last month”. Ministers may feel like they have to prove their relationship with God by showing that they are working. Have you ever said something like—“I can stop reading the Bible now. I have enough material for my class” or “I am too tired for time alone with God. I was up late doing ministry.” It is tempting to replace quality time with God for time spent doing programs or fellowship activities or writing articles, preparing for Sunday school, or preparing to speak at Ladies’ days. (Disclaimer: I am not saying these things are not great ways to spend your time, but I am saying they should not come before your time spent with God) Often times, we work and work and tire ourselves out with service for others and then we wonder why we do not feel any closer to God. Instead, every minister, and Christian for that matter, should put their relationship with God first and the work for others will come out of a heart wanting to serve the one they are so intimate with. It is possible for a minister to help others get closer to God while they themselves are getting farther away from Him.
Jesus spent time away from His ministry so that He could be alone with God (Luke 9:18, Luke 22:41; Matthew 14:13, 23). Jesus was intimate with the Father and expressed the importance of our relationship with Father God all throughout His teachings. Quality one-on-one time with God is vital to our spiritual growth. It just seems like common sense that in order to grow in a relationship with someone time and energy must be invested to create intimacy. We should never allow increasing ministry to decrease our intimacy with God.
Focus on God:
1) Quiet time/Quality time: find a place you can go to be alone with God and focus on Him. Talk to Him or just be still.
2) Sing Praises
3) Meditate on His word: Let your thoughts be consumed with scripture instead of worldly things.
4) Talk to Him all day long, every day.
5) Study God. What does the Bible say about Him?
These are a couple of suggestions of ways we can become more intimate with God and more God-focused. Ministry is the way Christians live out their relationships with God. It is what they are doing for God, His family and those who do not know Him. Quality time with God should be our first priority. It is only when we have an intimate relationship with the Father that we will be able to effectively and correctly minister to His children.
By Aimee Lemus
Aimee and her husband, Andrew, work with the Johnson Avenue church of Christ in El Cajon, CA. Aimee is a stay-at-home-mom to Andrew Jr., Annabella and Anderson.