by Richard Atwood
During a recent conversation with a home missionary, he mentioned how often he felt inadequate and thought about quitting. This guy is doing a good job, but I could certainly identify. During 20 years as a pastor, I thought about quitting almost every week. Every Sunday night, I mentally reviewed the mistakes of the day. When you speak three or four times a day and have a couple of hundred conversations, you probably will say something dumb. Even if it was a great day, I thought about the family that wasn’t there, or the person who got upset with me. I often told myself, “Surely, someone else could do a better job than this.”
It is not just church planters and pastors who feel inadequate. From what I have observed and read, many people deal with negative self-talk. This leads to never starting or quitting early. Look at the great leader Moses became, but even he started out thinking he wasn’t good enough.
Here are some ideas that have helped me overcome this problem:
Remember that you really are inadequate. What do I mean? You should not even attempt to do God’s work without a daily walk with Him, depending on His strength. When I was a pastor, I had two Sunday morning rituals. The first was to sing the old song, “I Need Thee Every Hour,” out loud in my office before church:
I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like thine can peace afford.
I need thee, O, I need thee
Every hour I need thee;
O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee.
Remember that your work is important. The other ritual was to ask myself the question about my preaching, “Do you have to say something, or do you have something to say?” In other words, are you just going through the motions in your ministry, or is this something important for people and the Kingdom?
Hang around encouraging people. We tell our kids not to hang around bad influences, but some of your own acquaintances may be a bad influence on you. If they are always negative, critical, and discouraging, maybe you need to pull back from them. (This also includes influences like books and television shows.) Instead, find those who encourage you and spend time with them. Just for the record, I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have an encouraging wife!
Hone your skills. One of the best ways to feel better about work is to do better work.
Remember the harvest takes time. Consider the words of Chik-fil-A™ founder
S. Truett Cathy: “I believe God wants us to be successful and yet success is not always obvious. The Chinese bamboo tree does absolutely nothing—or so it seems—for the first four years. Then suddenly, sometime during the fifth year, it shoots up 90 feet in 60 days. Would you say the bamboo tree grew in six weeks or five years? I think our lives are akin to the Chinese bamboo tree. Sometimes, we put forth effort, put forth effort, put forth effort…and nothing seems to happen. But, if you do the right things long enough, you’ll receive the rewards of your efforts.”
Don’t compare to others. When you compare your work or the results of your work to others, you end up either feeling proud or discouraged.
Think of others. If I am on a raft, and someone in the lake is struggling to swim, I don’t say I can’t do anything because I’m not a lifeguard or don’t swim as well as someone else. I maneuver the raft closer or hold out something for them to grab. I do what I can to help. People all around us need the gospel. They need the truth and love we have.
I close with this quote from H.B. London:
“In the twenty-first century, the issue of apathy may be our number one problem. Possibilities are clouded when a pastor feels overwhelmed by the massive and compelling spiritual needs he sees around him everywhere. As a result, sin and secularism are devastatingly oppressive to him. But, consider the presuppositions of ministry again. Doesn’t a call to ministry mean that God may send a pastor to wretched situations He wants to redeem and to people He wants to save? Doesn’t ministry mean that God sends us, inadequate though we are, next door to Hell to make the setting more like Heaven? He has to have someone there as His agent of reconciliation.”
About the Writer: Richard Atwood is director of missionary assistance for Free Will Baptist Home Missions. Learn more at www.homemissions.net.