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Wed Apr 16, 2014
by Elyse Fitzpatrick
A secret to longevity in ministry
Longevity in ministry is in part enabled by the Holy Spirit-enabled ability to find people continually and genuinely fascinating, writes Pastor Mark.
People are fascinating.
After 17 years of wonderfully hard years of ministry at the same church doing the same thing week after week—preaching the word of God and talking with people—something dawned on me: people are fascinating.
As a pastor, I get to hear people’s life stories. It’s rather incredible the kind of information people just walk up and tell me. And, it’s an honor to hear it.
For 17 years, I have met people every week from all stages of life, backgrounds, incomes, experiences, nations, and perspectives. Television pales in comparison to real people with real lives and real stories. Nothing is as interesting as the honesty of seemingly average people. The truth is, there is no average person. Everyone is unique, interesting, and surprising.
As one example, I recently had three people walk up to me, introduce themselves, and unpack their life without prompting.
The joyful, the devastating & the hopeful
The first was a young couple, married just that week, who were filled with joy and hope and covered with smiles. They were holding hands and asking for prayer. I laid hands on them both and prayed for them with great hope and joy. They closed their eyes but I snuck a peek to see the big smiles on their face as they leaned toward one another very much in love. I was overjoyed.
The next was someone who that same week received divorce papers from their spouse of many years and was asking for prayer through tears. I encouraged them as best I could, and tried not to push too deeply as they were on the brink of completely losing it and struggling to maintain composure amid the crowd. I was devastated.
Next, I had a man walk up to me, declare he had been committing adultery on his wife and they were in the process of a divorce, and he was planning on marrying his younger girlfriend. He continued to say that his father and grandfather had done the same thing. But, it had dawned on him this was a deep root of generational sin and, if he did not repent of it, it would take root in his sons and grandsons and also send him to hell since he was an unbeliever. He then asked if Jesus could save him, save his marriage, save his family, and save his legacy. I told him yes. And he believed it. He smiled and told me, “That’s great. Let’s do that.” So, we prayed to Jesus together. I then gave him directives for what repentance to his family looked like and he was completely receptive and eager to do what was right as the Holy Spirit flipped a switch in his heart in an instance. I was hopeful.
Ministry is about two things
People. Ministry is about Jesus and people. Jesus is amazing. People are fascinating.
I honestly love hearing the story of God’s grace woven into someone’s life. It is never predictable. It is always amazing and fascinating and devastating and encouraging. I am convinced that longevity in ministry is in part sustained by the Holy Spirit-enabled ability to find people continually and genuinely fascinating and loving to meet them no matter how awesome or awful their story might be. Once people surrender to Jesus, anything is possible, and so there is always hope even when everything seems hopeless. Admittedly, ministry can cause us to grow weary and lose heart (Heb. 12:3). It can be overwhelming, exhausting, discouraging, and devastating. But people are fascinating. Those who become bored with ministry often have simply stopped meeting people, because people are not boring—they’re fascinating.
To the young leaders who want to finish well remember this: Ministry is about Jesus and people. Jesus is amazing, and people are far too fascinating to ever be boring.