I can always tell when my priorities are out of whack because life seems to be thrown into a downward spiral I just can’t seem to recover from. Everything seems totally out of control, and I feel like I’m working overtime, yet succeeding at nothing.
Can you relate?
There have been many times over the years when I’ve missed the forest for the trees when doing ministry, for all sorts of reasons, and lately I find myself struggling again. So I thought that while I’m in the thick of things, maybe it would help me and benefit you, too, if I reflected on some warning signs that it’s time to take a step back from ministry to re-assess our priorities.
Sometimes we need to take a step back and re-assess why we do what we do, even when – especially when it comes to serving Jesus.
5 Danger Zones Women in Ministry Need to Watch For
Danger #1.) When Your Joy is Gone
“I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” – 2 Samuel 24:24 (NIV)
This quote comes from David when a man named Araunah offers to provide everything needed for David’s burnt offering sacrifice to God. But David would have none of it; he actually took delight in giving to God – it was an act of worship, done from a place of love.
If you find yourself dreading a ministry or consistently feel like it’s a burden, something is wrong. It may be that you’ve been going through the motions rather than offering God an act of worship from a place of love and devotion to Him. If the joy is gone from your ministry, take some time to assess why you’re in it.
Is it because you feel called?
Is it because you wanted to fill a gap you thought nobody else would fill?
Go to the Lord, sincerely open to what He has to say about the place and priority this ministry should have in your life. It may mean that you’ve just lost focus, or it could mean you’re not operating in your gifting or your calling.
Danger #2.) When You Get More Excited About Your Success Than God’s Glory
I published my first book last year. It truly was an act of worship for me. But sometimes, the idea of becoming a well-known author or speaker seems really exciting, and there are times when how to get more website hits or book sales becomes more of my focus than being a good steward of the message itself, or the “smaller” tasks God has called me to. Recently, God spoke to me through this scripture: “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11 NIV)
What I heard Him say was this: Live low. Be humble. Wash feet. Wipe snotty noses. Weep for the lost. Pray with the hurting. There are so many needs right in front of my face, so many ways to minister! I don’t need to be on a podium looking down. I need to be on my knees looking up.
When a ministry causes you to feel more concerned with your own success than the Lord being glorified, it’s definitely time to pause. I’m not saying you need to necessarily give it up, or even give up big dreams of God using you in big ways – as long as they’re for the right reasons. But you may need to get back to a place of spiritual prostration (just like I did). You could be the most famous Christian leader on the planet, and still be the most humble before God.
When our delight is truly in Him, the desires of our hearts – and sometimes even our wildest dreams – will follow (Psalm 37:4).
Danger #3.) When You Feel Like a Failure in All Facets of Life
This is me right now. Feeling like I’ve just dropped every single one of the fine China plates I’ve been trying to juggle, and am left holding the bill, wondering how on earth I’m going to pay for them.
When God hasn’t been ordering your ministry priorities, you will feel like a failure at everything. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. That’s not to say the Holy Spirit won’t sometimes convict you of areas that need improvement, but it’s the Enemy who condemns and brings feelings of worthlessness, despair and self-loathing.
If you feel like a failure in all aspects of your life, if you’ve just broken a bunch of fine China plates, it’s time to reassess. You might be juggling the wrong plates (God’s not the one ordering your priorities). Or there might just be too many (you need to get rid of some ministry clutter). Or you might need some juggling lessons (like maybe you need to take some time to pray and ask God for wisdom and seek godly counsel or practical help).
Just remember, even when you fail, and are left holding a huge bill for the shattered fine China, you have a loving Father who can pick up the pieces and bail you out, so you can start fresh.
Danger #4.) When Your Family is Suffering
Oh, this one hurts. I’ve been here too many times to count. I get so wrapped up in ministry of all sorts that I lose the forest for the trees and forget to minister to my own people.
I’ve written about discipling your children and being a good shepherd as I plop my kids down in front of the TV so I have peace and quiet to write. I’ve taught a Sunday school class where we discuss the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself, then later the same day selfishly put my wants and needs before my husband’s.
If ministry is causing you to neglect the home front, it’s a sign that your priorities might be a little (or a lot) off.
Danger #5.) When You Are Neglecting Your Personal Relationship with God
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” – Luke 10:27 (NIV)
Our highest calling is to love God. Period. All else stems from that, so when ministry is actually tearing you away from God, something is really, really wrong!
It may be something as simple as needing to carve intentional time into your schedule to spend time with God, or it could be that your ministry has become an idol. Whatever the case, it’s time to take a step back and assess your ministry and your priorities. Ask the Holy Spirit to search you (Psalm 139:23-24) and reveal any impure motives or wrong thinking.
Serving God’s People For God’s Glory
God made us to minister! By no means am I suggesting that these warning signs are reasons to quit a particular ministry. But when we see these red flags, I think we can all take some time to step back and assess our priorities and motives so that we’re sure we are on the path God has called us to. Anything else is just going to lead to frustration. When the Body of Christ is healthy, there’s room for everyone to use their gifts for the glory of God in a way that honors Him and brings joy to His ministers.
How have you recognized a need to step back from ministry to assess your priorities? Do you have a story of how you’ve regained the joy in ministry? Share your story!
There are so many women in ministry now days that make it look easy, but the honest truth is, it’s not. Giving your life to Jesus is hard work, helping others do the same is even harder. Let’s be honest and share our struggles. Because even though it’s hard, there is joy to be found in living for Jesus.
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