We sing the carol "Joy to the World" each Christmas. Sometimes, though, we sing the words even when we struggle to find joy as Christian leaders.
We know our joy is God's unique gift to us, but we still battle internally against "joy stealers" like:
- Church members who always point out the negative. God could rain blessings down from heaven, and they'd still find something wrong. Pessimism marks their lives.
- Members who ignore the Word of God. You preach that Word every week, and some "regulars" in the church still choose to live according to their own plans. Watching ongoing disobedience—and then determining if/when church discipline needs to happen—gets old.
- Church member families that fall apart. It's frustrating when you see the world's standards regarding marriage influence the church in a negative way. It's hard to stay joyous when you're always ministering to hurting people.
- Sermons we wish we'd never preached. Most of us have been there—we're filled with excitement and anticipation on Sunday morning, only to fight discouragement and defeat on Sunday afternoon. Often, we're our own worst critics.
- Ongoing personal sin that haunts our own lives. Overwhelming joy isn't even an option when we're living in sin—sin that in many cases for pastors is private and hidden. By these choices, we rob ourselves of our joy.
- A heart that's always focused on the bigger church, the greener grass and the greater recognition. One problem with this kind of arrogance is that it never gets satisfied. You can't have joy as long as you think you still deserve better.
- Staff relationships that are strained. Nobody wants to work in an atmosphere of conflict, but battles happen even among leaders in the church. Most of us need to search hard for joy when we don't even want to go to the office.
- Church members who demand ongoing and increased attention. They're exhausting, frustrating and impossible to please. No matter how much ministry you do on their behalf, they're never satisfied—and it's hard to keep serving them joyfully.
- Impatience for change. Churches are notoriously difficult ships to turn around. For passionate pastors who see the obvious need for change, the time required for the process can be disheartening.
- Over-reliance on our own strength. It's tough to be filled with the joy of the Lord when we're not dependent on the strength of the Lord.
Pastors, what robs you of your joy?
Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is team leader for theological education strategists for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
For the original article, visit chucklawless.com.
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