Giving your life to Jesus for full-time ministry is a journey full of blessings. However, there is a part to this -as there is to any line of work- that involves carrying a cross.
One of the toughest parts of this is the realization that you cannot -nor should you- please everyone. You do your best for God, and some people -and they are great, good people- head the other direction. I call those "dings." Sometimes I understand the reasons and sometimes I don't. Just two months ago a woman caught me after worship, thanked me for my ministry, told me Trinity's ministry needs to be on a national stage, and then just weeks ago I found out she was leaving the church. Hmmm....figure that out. I dare you.
The crazy thing is that 98% of everything can be going right in a great church like Trinity, and that 2% that criticize, pull back, withdraw...that really stings. Those are "dings" to the heart and soul. You tell yourself not to care so much. You tell yourself that no one church or pastor is for everyone. You tell yourself different people need different styles of ministry. You tell yourself that Jesus was always getting clobbered by those who didn't understand him or who thought he was getting it all wrong. And it still stings.
So the other day I had this "ding." It was a pretty good "ding." Great stuff...people growing their giving to God in a tough environment...notes from people about what Trinity means to them...a report about the $25,000+ our church will have given to a community food ministry this year...and the "ding" hurt.
Do you know what I did?
Well, first I prayed. That's always good. Because being strongly connected to God is the key to having the ability to endure...bounce back from...the "dings." God opens our eyes to a bigger picture and reminds us that our value is not based on pleasing people.
The second thing I did is I told a couple of very close friends I had been "dinged." They understood. The one, also a pastor, sent me a note saying leadership is tough and sometimes lonely. He told me "hang in there."
The third thing is I made a very careful, very strategic selection of music to listen to as I drove across town. I have a great collection of rock and roll, country, and classical (not so much jazz). Some of the rock is soft...introspective...quiet...deep. I didn't think that was going to help me. That kind of music might put me deeper into "ding-land." So it came down to a new CD, The Monsters of Folk, or two older CD's - "Help" by the Beatles or "The Ultimate Collection" by the Temptations.
I made a good choice: I chose the Temptations. (If you aren't familiar with Motown music it's never too late to get that kind of musical salvation! Listen in on Smoky Robinson and Martha Reeves and Stevie Wonder and The Four Tops and The Supremes and The Temptations.) What started me smiling were those amazing, opening notes by the bass on "My Girl." How can the "dings" have you permanently when you hear that bass line and the sweet voices of the Temptations sing: "I've got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it's cold outside I've got the month of May. I guess you say 'What can make me feel this way?' My girl! My girl! Talking 'bout my girl. I've got so much honey the bees envy me. I've got a sweeter song than the birds in the trees."
Jesus saves. I know that. And am so thankful!
But good music helps, you know? Especially with the "dings."