Ministry Isn’t Fair (by Tim Spivey)

Ministry Isn’t Fair (by Tim Spivey) November 5, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 8.28.19 PMMINISTRY ISN’T FAIR, by Tim Spivey

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Pastor of New Vintage Church in Escondido, California and author of the widely read leadership blog. He also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University.

I admit it. Ministry isn’t fair. More people in ministry quit from discouragement than any other reason. At least, that’s been the case among my peers. It’s the only reason I’ve ever had one of those dark night thoughts of, “Why am I doing this?” while fantasizing about other vocational possibilities. I haven’t thought it often, but I have thought it.

I don’t know anyone who has quit ministry from an overdose of joy or dropped the mic and walked away after perfecting ministry. I know many who have walked away because of that great enemy of our calling: Discouragement. Not the ordinary kind, but rather the kind that suffocates people. Not the, “Today was a bad day,” kind of discouragement. I’m talking about the kind you can drown in if you don’t swim. Ministry is full of joyful days—far more than discouraging days.

A lot of things can discourage us, but among the chief sources of discouragement is the sense that a lot of things we suffer aren’t fair. I’ve come to terms (at least, today) with unfairness. I’d like to share my journey with you briefly, hoping it might bless some of you, as well.

Let’s begin with this thought: We’re right. Much of what happens in ministry isn’t fair.

We sometimes get nitpicked to death by people with critical spirits.

That’s not fair.

Church members we pour our lives into will sometimes leave quickly, often over something relatively petty– delivering cheap parting shots as they go.

That’s not fair.

People will gossip about or slander us, and we will just have to take it because we choose to protect their confidentiality. Those same people know our principles and will use them against us.

That’s not fair.

We’ll be blamed for the decisions made by those above us, and will suffer the consequences of decisions that were beyond our control.

That’s not fair.

Our families will be judged by subjective measures not given by the Scriptures—and our “judges” do not judge themselves by the same impossible standards.

That’s not fair.


We’ll also get credit for things we don’t deserve credit for.

People will tell us a mediocre sermon was great, because they love us.

We’ll have people who would run through a brick wall for us.

We can wake up every day knowing what we’re doing has eternal impact.

We’ll have people on their knees praying for us with uncommon faithfulness and passion.

We’ll have a better seat than anyone else in our church to see the redemptive work of God in the lives of people.

I suppose that part isn’t fair either, is it? After all, why us? Why should we receive such blessings from God’s hand?

God never said ministry would be fair. Instead, He promises us His presence each day whether it’s a fair day of palpable blessing or we’re struggling for our ministry lives against a vicious riptide of injustice. Ministry isn’t fair. It is a battle, a race, a test of faith, and a beautiful fight. It isn’t fair.

This of course doesn’t mean we don’t strive for justice or we have no right to feel bad about the brutality of injustices in ministry. We should absolutely stand our ground or push back when we need to. However, we need to know ministry has never been known for fairness. We model ourselves after the crucified, Innocent One, after all, and no servant is greater than their Master.

The answer to the scourge of discouragement isn’t the martyr complex. It is the Spirit’s power providing us boldness, a sense of calling, the fruit of perseverance and joy that causes us to see the beauty of what God is doing, despite what Satan just did to us. Why allow the flame God put in us to be put out by Satan’s work through others? Why not take comfort and draw strength from knowing the One who is in us is greater than he who is in the world?

The single best change I’ve made to my ministry over the years is to stop expecting fairness and obsessing about injustices done to me. I used to spend precious energy focusing on the victories of the evil one in my life instead of God’s activity. Satan wants us to think about how ministry has done us wrong—not how God does great things for us and through us every day. Joy in ministry is less a product of our environment than a result of the Spirit’s work in our discouragement.

Today may have been truly awful. Tomorrow might be even worse. However, we never need to doubt that through us, in the sometimes cold and wet trenches of ministry, God is working. Who knows, with some perseverance, today’s trench may be tomorrow’s vineyard.


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