The Danger of Being in the Middle of Ministry

Beginning and ending are the easy parts. It’s slogging through the middle that gets us every time.

When I start a project, whether an up-and-coming event at the church, a writing project, or a home improvement project, it’s usually exciting. When you start something you have high hopes and big dreams.

The ending can be fairly easy as well. After all, you’re near the end! Like a person or a horse running the race you can pour it on. You’re just about done, what you’ve been planning for and working for is just about here. There’s the energy that comes from being almost done.

It’s that middle that gets us most of the time. We’ve lost the excitement of starting and we’re not close enough to the end to feed off the excitement of having it conclude. We’re in the no man’s land of the middle. The ancients called it the “noonday demon.” One of the seven deadly sins, sloth, often comes to visit us when we’re in the middle of things. We’re at dead center and we feel dead!

Those of us who are pastors find ourselves in the middle of ministry for a long time, for the middle is much bigger than either the beginning or ending. The middle of ministry is extra challenging when results aren’t forthcoming as we had expected in the beginning when optimism fueled our efforts. The hope to hear the Lord’s “well done” seems a long way off.

have been pastoring the same church for nearly 37 years and have said on several occasions that I pastor one of the slowest growing churches in the country!  I’ve often struggled with my feelings and attitude as I’ve experienced what I think are less than stellar results for my efforts.  “When are things going to really start happening?” I wonder.

Over the years I’ve not identified any quick fix for ministering well in the middle, just the faithful affirmation and application of some key principles I preach on regularly for the Lord’s people that I need to take seriously myself! First, I’m called to be faithful, not “successful” as the world defines success, or how even I or my peers are often tempted to define success. Second, I need to focus on that which I love about ministry and not fixate on that which isn’t the way I’d like it to be in ministry. Third, my identity is not in what I do but in who I am, who I am in Christ. Fourth, embrace the day by giving thanks for today’s manna of sustenance from the Lord and the other blessings I can identify while doing the tasks He’s assigned for me, just for today.

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