Ministry is more than a job. It’s not less than a job, of course. It is what we do to make money to provide for ourselves and our families. That’s what a job is.
But pastoral ministry is much more than a job because it can never be separated from the pastor’s personal life. Whatever the opposite of oil and water is, that is the metaphor for the pastor’s personal and professional life.
Because of this vital connection between our life and our ministry, Satan schemes to nudge pastors toward a strictly professional relationship with God. By “strictly professional” I mean the kind of relationship that is exists simply to get a job done, but exhibits little warmth, care, or love away from the task. Think Kobe and Shaq circa 2004.
If our adversary can get our relationship with Jesus on strictly professional terms, he will subtly turn us down a path toward destruction. Since the link between our life, our ministry, and our God is inextricable, it is impossible to serve your church in “on the job” mode for very long. Our ministry will unravel. That’s because our spiritual life already has.
Does your relationship with God serve merely a ministerial function? Are you increasingly disconnected from God in terms of a personal, vibrant relationship?
Here are five signs that your relationship with God is strictly professional.
- Your prayer life and personal Bible study is limited to church responsibilities. Is your prayer limited to asking God’s blessings on your meals, meetings, and messages? Do you only study the Bible to prepare sermons? If your devotional life would evaporate should you exit the ministry, that’s a sign you and God only have an on the job relationship.
- You check your pastoral ministry at the door of your home. Our first congregation is our family, not our church. When everyone else is punching out for the day, do you punch out with them? Or do you view your evenings as your most critical time of discipleship and ministry?
- You are not confronting sin in your preaching. Are you afraid of losing numbers and tithe money if you call out sin from the pulpit? Are you avoiding the controversial topics of today—you know, the ones Isaiah, John the Baptist, and Jesus focused on? Then you are defining success in terms of your congregational approval rating rather than your faithfulness to God and His word.
- You’re more concerned about your digital ministry than your church ministry. What is the ratio of time spent preparing your sermons and meeting with your sheep to your time spent tweeting and blogging? Our digital pulpits are not unimportant, but neither are they the primary place of our ministry.
- You resist temptation because caving could cost you your job. The woman you are counseling. The sermon you found on the internet. The cash payments from the church dinner. Do you keep your hands off because, like Joseph, it would grieve your heart to do something so unloving before your Heavenly Father? Or are you concerned only with the horizontal consequences being fired?
My relationship with God is strictly professional. What should I do?
If you are being convicted about the disconnect between your personal walk with God and your ministry, the first thing to do is to thank God. Conviction is a sign that His Spirit is at work in you. His unmerited kindness leads us to repentance. He disciplines His children because He loves them. Praise Him and thank Him for calling you back.
Second, confess the sin of not loving God with all your heart. Really confess it. Superficial, quick fix confession is for the pastor who relates to God only professionally. Mourn over your sin, for He will comfort you. Grieve over it with godly grief, because that is the kind that produces actual repentance.
Third, consider the ministry of Jesus. There was nothing professional about it. The righteousness He earned for you was not limited to forty-hour work weeks. It encompassed of shred of His life. He went to the cross and bore all our cheesy professionalism on His shoulders.
Lastly, love God simply for who He is and how He has graciously loved you. Re-engage in a relationship with Him in light of all that He has done for you through Jesus. Remind yourself of your desperate need for God and cling to Him once again. Love God—whether at church, at home, or anywhere—like He rescued you from drowning in the ocean. Because He did.