the shape of leadership

When Ministry Is More Than You Can Handle

Encouragement from the life of Moses

Rebecca Burtram on June 25, 2018

Pastors are under a lot of stress. According to LifeWay Research, 80 percent of pastors expect conflict in their churches, 54 percent say their role is frequently overwhelming, and 48 percent feel the demands of ministry are often more than they can handle. It is clear that we, as ministers, could use some encouragement in our calling.

When I need encouragement, I start by looking to what God has to say on the topic. His Word speaks to every situation we face. One story in Scripture that encourages me as I pursue my calling is that of Moses.

God Equips Us

When Moses’ mother placed him in the river, God was putting him in the right place at the right time. Instead of living as a slave, Moses grew up in the palace while remaining connected to his Jewish roots. This experience gave him a unique perspective that helped him fulfill the calling God later revealed.

Moses likely received formal training and was also able to observe leadership firsthand. God knew what he was calling Moses to from the beginning, and He equipped Moses for the task.

We may feel overwhelmed by the work in front of us at times, but we need to remember that God has uniquely equipped us for the work to which He has called us. From Moses to the apostle Paul, we can see in Scripture how God weaves together life experiences to prepare people for leadership. God has not changed.

When you face a challenge you feel ill-prepared to handle, ask yourself what life experience, training or resources God has provided that can lead to success in your circumstance. Often, the moments we have lived — good and bad — have provided us with skills, empathy or wisdom we can apply in a new way to the present.

It is also important to remember the formal training we have received and continue to receive. Chances are you’ve picked up a lot of knowledge from Bible professors, mentors, pastors and favorite authors.

When God parts the Red Sea, only He can receive the glory.

Sometimes you just need to take a few moments to recall the lessons by considering this simple question: What have I learned about this in the past? You have a storehouse of knowledge God can help you recall.

Finally, God equips us through relationships. Moses had individuals like Aaron, Jethro and Joshua to help him along the way. What church members, friends, relatives, professionals, mentors and district leaders can you look to for support and creative solutions?

God doesn’t expect you to lead alone. Consider the people He has placed in your life to provide wisdom, insight, comfort, fellowship and encouragement. Also consider how you can invest in others as they lead or prepare for leadership.

God Does What We Cannot

Despite his preparation, training and friends, there was much Moses could not do. As Moses stood before the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army getting closer by the moment, it was evident that the demands of leadership were more than he could handle. Only God, the One who miraculously brought the Isrealites out of Egypt, could rescue them.

Life and ministry will bring challenges that exceed our capacity to navigate in our own power. When we are unable to meet the needs of our people, we may see it as a personal failure and become discouraged.

However, we do not go into ministry because we believe so deeply in our own abilities to change lives. We go into ministry because we know that God can change the unchangeable situations, and we love being a conduit and a witness to the activity of God.

It is foolish pride that causes us to forget God doesn’t mean for us to meet all the demands of ministry. There is work we cannot do, and that is perfectly acceptable. It is in those moments that we and those around us experience the most dramatic growth and change.

When God parts the Red Sea, only He can receive the glory. When you find yourself in a ministry situation you cannot answer, you are in a position to see God show up in a way that only He can.

As you maintain a God-centered perspective, ministry shouldn’t overwhelm you or cause you to question whether you are able to provide what people need. God has equipped you, and He meets the needs you cannot. Continually surrender your life to His will, and stay strong in your calling.


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