When ministry failure creeps up on us

“What does it mean when you pursue your calling, minister with all the strength Jesus supplies, preach the gospel, love people, and it just doesn’t work out?”

For Joshua Wilson, the closing of his church plant after five years led him to wrestle with this question as he was burdened with a sense of total failure. This feeling can persist even in new ministry endeavours, causing us to only see our shortcomings and impending failure yet again. But Joshua points out that this is a lie- we have taken our eyes off the finished work of Christ and turned them inwardly, doubting that we are worthy of ministry at all.

Personally, this feeling is not foreign. I had been inviting a non-Christian university friend to Bible study and went through ‘Investigating Christianity’ studies with her. She was forthcoming with her questions and over two months, grew in her understanding of the gospel. She expressed interest in checking out church and I was quite excited at that prospect. However, as she graduated and began to work, she stopped attending Bible study. The last I know, she currently lives with her non-Christian boyfriend and does not go to church or meet up with Christians to read the Bible. I was eager for her to take on the truths of the gospel but it felt like I had utterly failed.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. – Phil 3:12-16

Paul reminds us that success is all about faithfulness to Jesus rather than what we did or did no accomplish. Perhaps you have experienced something similar, be it a discouraging response after sharing the gospel, leading a Bible study or simply dealing with expectations in ministry that are not met. Let’s not get caught up in our failures or listen to the voice of condemnation but rather take on a gospel-oriented view of success. 

Mae-Ann Soh