Discouragement when your Ministry is Ending
My Discouragement in this ministry
For over four years now of being involved with our church plant's youth ministry and I have been co-leading it with my cousin for the last two and a half years; in those year's it has been filled with many ups and downs. As we approach the three-year mark of co-leading this ministry together, my cousin will be leaving this youth ministry we worked on together to fulfil God's call on him to go to another city to reach the lost. I am left feeling alone and on my own.
In the years that we have co-lead this youth ministry, we have seen our youth grow up into young men and women, and we will soon see them leave to seek a college education, and ultimately to pursue Christ for themselves. It's funny to see when we look back at photos of them, seeing how young they were and seeing how God has guided their hearts since then.
We have taken our youth on day trips to the IMAX, to the city, paintballing, skiing, various other places, hung out with them for movies, lunches, coffees. We have sweet memories taking our youth on surf trips to my favourite place, Tofino, to have fun and share our stories of God's grace and mercy to us. I am tearing up just thinking about all the things we've done together writing this!
But as this new season approaches where I will no longer have my cousin to work along side by side. There are moments where I slip into discouragement, as waves upon waves of thoughts overwhelm me. Thoughts of declining numbers, my complete inability to lead or serve in this ministry alone, the future for our youth, the uncertainty of what's going to happen, my aversion towards suffering, seeing failure and toiling at this hard ground. In the midst of all these thoughts, I struggle to discern as to whether it's a season to end things or a season to endure and trust.
My Iniquities and Shortcomings
I am afraid of failing. Some are bad reasons, some are awful. This season is like a pressure pot where all my shortcomings and iniquities are surfacing and are being revealed. In this situation, I see that I have wrongly placed my identity in what I do and in my ministry. I see where I have sought my own glory and not the Father's glory. I can see that I have tried to play Saviour and see that I am not. I have sought to take control and play God and found that I am not in control. I have been prayerless and so much more. Perhaps my discouragement is from seeing my own shortcomings and limitations to do that task set before me.
Truths that I'm straining to hold fast
In the midst of this stormy cloud of thought, the Holy Spirit catches me as I am engulfed by these destructive and impulsive feelings. I can only turn to the Rock and strain to see Him more clearly in this squall.
I am not my Ministry
It's easy to put your identity in your ministry; to see your worth in the success, size, growth and vibrancy of the work you've been placed to toil over. However, this could not be further to the truth, my worth, value, affirmation does not come from what work I do, but the work Christ has done for me. The "success" of my ministry is primarily the work of the Spirit; He is the one transforming, saving, bringing to life, restoring, healing the people in whom I'm serving. Moreover, He is the one who has given me the life, breath, gifts, resources, calling to do the ministry in the first place.
Ministries are sometimes only for seasons
As much as we desire to leave these long-lasting legacies of change and redemption, this does not necessarily mean that our ministry will exist for the same lifespan. Sometimes God calls for a certain season for a ministry to start and then to end. The legacies of change and redemption that we leave are held in the storehouse of treasures in Heaven; they are not meant to merely live itself out in an earthly presence. Know that it's not a failure to dissolve a ministry. Sometimes the needs of your church, people or community just change. Sometimes God call is just for a short-term period; dissolve it, end it well, and rejoice and celebrate as you look back at the work that God has done through you.
God is with me
I am anxious that I am to do so much work alone and on my own. Yet I am not on my own, but my prayerlessness and anxious turmoil inside refuses the only one who is truly with me. God is not only with me, but His Spirit dwells within me because of the finished work of Christ. More over, it is not me who needs to do more work more, but it's going to be the Spirit who works in me and through me who is doing the hard work; my work is to love and obey Christ.
God Is certain, foreknowing, and already has a plan
I am anxious, for I am uncertain over what is going to happen. What if I have to do this on my own? What if we can't find a male leader for the guys? What if we can't continue this youth ministry and it gets dissolved? What if it all ends and what would our youth think? How will this affect their views on Jesus? And on and on it goes... Yet God is certain, God knows what will happen, and better still, He already had birthed a plan before the foundations of this world. No, I cannot be certain, but I can look to a God who is certain about what will happen and who already has a plan in place.
I am anxious that we will not get what I think I need to continue our youth ministry if it is His will. Yes God has provided me with everything I needed to grant His desire of my heart to serve on a church plant. He gave me the plane ticket, a place to live, a car to drive, a job to afford it. He even gifted me to my cousin to work and serve alongside in all of it. He gave me a youth ministry to steward. Surely if it remains or if He takes it away, it's all in His sovereign grace and will. Sometimes God provides what I need, and it's already right in front of me, but I've been too busy looking for what I thought I needed or expect.
I have no answers
I'm praying that God will hasten to bring someone along soon. Praying that God will gently humble my heart and prevent me from being blinded by my own pride. I'm asking that I would firmly place my identity in Him, that I would not falsely place my identity in my ministry and position. I'm praying that His truth will override my feelings. I'm praying for forgiveness. I have no answers. But I worship a God who does.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7, ESV)