A Note from Kelly King: Do you get exhausted or discouraged as a leader? Today’s article should encourage you to never give up on messy ministry. In her ongoing series, Ministering in the Messy, Dr. Deb Douglas (First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA) gives leaders encouragement and wisdom to trust the Lord.
We all get overwhelmed. The messiness gets to be too much; we get discouraged. There are times when we are giving all we have to give, we are exhausted, our own lives are beginning to be messy, and it seems our efforts are not leading to any positive results. No lives are being changed. In fact, things appear to be getting messier.
We want to quit.
Messy ministry is hard. It’s exhausting. Until the day Jesus returns, the world will continue to be messy, and those of us called to serve will be ministering in the messy.
One day when a young woman was shadowing me, I had to go into one of the worst neighborhoods in our area to search for a missing young woman in the sex trade industry. After several disappointing circumstances, we stopped at a traffic light. The young woman with me became upset because a gang member “flipped us off.” I laughed, “We did not get shot. We did not get carjacked. It’s a good day!”
As funny as my comment was, I realized I had stumbled on a bit of wisdom. Sometimes I look for great big results to measure the success or effectiveness of how I am serving. And sometimes I look at the wrong set of results to judge how well I’m serving. But God did not call me to measure results. He called me to be obedient. When I get off track from that simple truth, I begin to feel overwhelmed. When I’m looking to measure results, my focus is off from what He’s called me to do: to share Christ, to meet needs, to follow Him.
If I measure my results by how women are responding, then I’m using the wrong measure. I am not in control of how they respond. In fact, if I am in control, it’s all about me, not about God at work. The reality is I am not responsible for what women do with how I minister to them. They are adults with the freedom to choose how they act. My responsibility is to trust God to work, pray, and follow Jesus obediently.
The measurement I need to be using includes the answers to questions like these:
- Am I using the gifts and talents God has given me to serve others?
- Am I growing in my relationship with Christ?
- Am I striving for healthy relationships with others?
- Am I keeping my attitude in check?
- Am I keeping my focus on abiding in Christ?
- Am I faithfully seeking to reach others?
- Am I praying without ceasing?
- Am I staying busy or I am being a follower of Christ? I can be busy and accomplish nothing. Yes, I can impress everyone with my busyness. I may feed my own insecurities by my busyness. But busyness does not equal effective ministry. It equals burn out.
Recently, a friend was telling me that she had realized that as parents of adults, we cannot judge our parenting by the things our children do. They have free will; they make their own choices. If we have poured into our children faithfully, we have accomplished our work as a parent. The same is true for those of us who are ministering in the messy. We obediently follow. We accept that we may never see the result of our work. We pray. And then, we trust God to work as we continue to serve.
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
Dr. Deb Douglas has served in women’s ministry for over 37 years. Now she spends her time working with Purchased Ministry, a ministry to women in the sex trade industry. Deb is also the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA. She was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters degree focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. She is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.