They call him the little green-eyed monster.
The Bible calls it envy.
I call it part of my spiritual journey.
I know that I’m experiencing ministerial jealousy when…
Instead of Rejoicing, I Find Fault
All I can remember thinking when I entered the Children’s Ministry complex of NewSpring Church in Wichita was, “what I wouldn’t give to have a tenth of this space for our children’s ministry in Las Vegas.” At the time we were packing nearly 60 kids into a space designed for half that many, and it was driving me crazy. My friend Jonathan was simply celebrating God’s provision, and all I could do was compare my lack to his plenty.
Instead of rejoicing, I felt the temptation to find fault.
- Temptation #1 – I could find fault in their ministry!
My initial reaction in moments like this is to make myself feel better by looking down at others. “Puppet stages, climbing walls, and big-screen TVs?” I thought to myself, “this clearly demonstrates that their entire ministry philosophy is built on entertainment rather than discipleship.” But then my friend began to explain the core mission, process, and vision for their children’s ministry. With great care they outline the truths of the Gospel to every child who comes to NewSpring. With strong intentionality they build little disciples through Bible teaching, small group discussion, and ministry opportunity.
- Temptation #2 – I could find fault in our ministry!
My critical spirit turned from outward to inward. “So, if they aren’t terrible…perhaps I am. Afterall, look at the mess I’ve made of our church in Las Vegas. We built a building, with our limited resources, and didn’t provide nearly enough space for children’s ministry. This was a failure in leadership. This demonstrates a lack of vision.” But my fragile psyche can only take so much self-loathing so I began to realize that there was someone else to blame.
- Temptation #3 – I could find fault in God!
“Afterall, it was He who provided all of this space to NewSpring while leaving us with hardly anything. Why is He so good to them? Why doesn’t He bless us in the same way?”
And this is the battle every pastor faces when looking at the “successful” ministries of another. It’s the same battle a childless woman faces when she hears of yet another pregnancy in the church. It’s the same battle a man faces when he sees his friend’s brand new car. Because of our bent toward the sin of envy, we tend to find fault, rather than rejoicing in the prosperity of others.
Yet the Word of God reminds us…
Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
I also know that I’m experiencing ministerial jealousy when…
Instead of Contentment, I Feel Restless
How is it that we can simultaneously believe two contradictory statements at the same time?
- God’s sovereign plan is best.
- Perhaps I should’ve been serving over there.
Bro! Listen to me and remind me of the same thing next time we talk! You are married to the perfect partner. You are serving with the perfect team. You are in the right city, town, village, or hamlet. You are perfectly suited to perform the duty to which you’ve been called. There is NOT a better assignment than the one to which Christ has called you. And if you are being moved away…be sure it is the Master who is doing the moving.
How many times have I looked over the fence at another’s ministry and thought, “Wow! The grass seems so green over there.” Believe me, plenty! Honestly, it’s strange to admit it on this blog, but my closest friends know how many times I’ve thought about leaving my post here in Las Vegas.
Restlessness is the plague of modern ministry. Discontentment is the scourge of the American church.
And, I am the absolute worst.
When I was younger, I wanted to be older and more distinguished in ministry.
Now that I am nearing 40, I’m beginning to pine for my youth.
When Heather and I served without a team, we would long for a staff to join us and help us in the ministry.
Now that we lead a larger staff, we think about the days of ministerial simplicity and self-reliance.
I genuinely thought I’d be happy with 300 people attending our church. When we arrived at 300 – I wasn’t happy. So, I thought happiness would come with 500 people attending our church. When we arrived at 500 – I wasn’t happy. Certainly, it would happen at 700…850…1,000!
I’ve come to the realization that contentment will never be found in achieving a particular ministerial goal but in an intimate knowledge of a particular person. I’ve learned that in moments of restlessness I can either daydream about other opportunities, pursue other ministries, pour myself into my own ministry, or go spend some time with the Master. I’m telling you from personal experience! The former will always leave you wanting. Only the latter will ever bring satisfaction and contentment.
Whether you’re longing for another state, another ministry, another position, or a future version of your own ministry, just know that there is incredible danger in wishing away today on the promises of tomorrow.
I Timothy 6:6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain.
How does one know when God really is moving them away, and this is not simply a matter of restlessness and ministerial jealousy? Check out this episode of The Idea Talks – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/how-to-leave-right-idea-talks-episode-16/id1069672009?i=1000414603463
I wish that I could say that I’ve always been perfectly content in my particular life and ministry. I wish that I could say that my heart always leaps to rejoice with another rather than be critical of a brother. I wish that I could say that I’ve never experienced ministerial jealousy. However, if this were the case, I wouldn’t be human.