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The Send Network Church Planting Blog

Finish Lines: When Is Ministry Finished?

June 16, 2014 by Andy Wood
Kingdom work is never-ending for pastors and staff members of the local church. We have emails to return, sermons to prepare, leaders to develop, many who need counseling and thousands of people in our communities who are facing a Christless eternity. In spite of the never-ending work, most of us are pretty passionate about what we do. If Apple’s new iPads don’t ship on time, there will be a lot of unhappy customers, but if the gospel isn’t communicated clearly, the ramifications will be eternal. We believe Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead for us, and because of this we give our all. But our commitment to do whatever it takes, combined with the wrong belief many of us have that we must “always be on,” can cause us to die a slow death on the altar of ministry. It’s sad to watch families suffer, souls be depleted, and bodies get out of shape as love for Jesus wanes.

The restless abyss

On several occasions I’ve felt myself being sucked into this abyss. My prayer times were becoming meaningless, my patience with my children evaporating and my communication with my wife, Stacie, becoming short.
Our commitment to do whatever it takes, combined with the wrong belief many of us have that we must “always be on,” can cause us to die a slow death on the altar of ministry.
I’ve seen the destruction of this path, and I don’t want to partake of it. This is why I’m grateful for the mentors who have helped to graciously redirect me. I hear the words of Steve Stroope from Lake Pointe Church ringing in my ear: “Andy, your pace is not sustainable. You can’t run like this for 30 years.” The fool in me wants to refute this with some spiritual response about doing the Lord’s work: “But we’re in the San Francisco Bay Area; 93 percent of the people in our community don’t know Jesus.” I might as well be saying, “I’m Superman, and God can’t do His work without me.” Jesus doesn’t need me and, truth be told, He can pretty quickly replace me. If I die, His kingdom will go on. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to lose urgency for the gospel. But He never asked me to sacrifice my health, my marriage or my relationship with my kids for the gospel. I’m realizing now that one of my most important responsibilities as a leader is to protect the work of God in me if I’m going to persevere with the work of God through me.

“Well done, good and faithful servant”

To be a good and faithful servant, I must establish temporary rest points to help me keep running to the end. A simple solution that has been helping me achieve this (again, this insight comes from Steve Stroope) is setting what I call “finish lines.” Because ministry is never finished, I must establish pseudo finish lines to refresh, restore and renew my soul. These include things like a daily finish line, a weekly finish line with a day off, a monthly finish line with solitude and an annual finish line with vacation.
Far too many pastors feel like the whole kingdom of God is riding on their shoulders, and, consequently, they can’t rest.
Today I’m working to leave my post by the same time every day, to leave the laptop in my bag on my day off, to spend time once a month away focused on prayer, to shut my phone off during date night and to take vacations throughout the year both alone with my wife and together with my family.

How do you want to finish?

When all is said and done, what will your spouse and kids say about you? What kind of health will you be in when you are 65-years-old? What kind of marriage do you want to have with your spouse when the kids are gone? Are you going to let the work of God through you kill the work of God in you? If your vision for finishing strong is clear enough, you will figure out a sustainable strategy for your pace of ministry. Far too many pastors feel like the whole kingdom of God is riding on their shoulders, and, consequently, they can’t rest. Here’s the crazy thing about resting: I’ve found that, with these finish lines, I’m getting more accomplished. I’m working more effectively, I’m empowering more leaders, I’m more refreshed when I teach and I’m more engaged mentally with our staff. I’m trusting God to move in the space between what I can physically accomplish and the ministry that needs to be done. So, may I gently challenge you? How do you want to finish? What are you going to do about it? Let me know what you figure out! For further resources check out Frontlinecoaching.org