OSWEGO, Ill.—Harvest New Beginnings hosted its M4 Ministry Enrichment Conference Nov. 2–3. About 25 pastors from the Midwest attended.
According to Scott Poling, pastor of Harvest, the M4 conference seeks to encourage pastors in facing the emotions of ministry, inspire pastors for direction in ministry, provide wisdom from experienced ministry leaders, and promote friendships among men serving in ministry. The conference accomplishes those goals with insightful preaching, relevant breakout sessions, and authentic interaction.
Because this year has been so different than any other year, the church did not want to cancel the event. “The whole focus is to build men up in ministry for a different year in ministry,” Scott says. “The conference is totally focused on encouragement, strengthening, mutual support, and prayer.”
Ministering in Challenging Times
On the first day, GARBC National Representative Mike Hess encouraged pastors with a message from Psalm 62, “Calm Assurance in Chaotic Times.” He emphasized that believers’ real hope must be focused on God alone and not on better circumstances, even in these challenging times.
The first day also featured three breakout panel discussions that dealt with navigating ministry through a pandemic. The sessions focused on the challenges and benefits of online and in-person worship services and how to handle differences in ministry amid COVID-19.
On the second day, Scott spoke on “How to Handle the Emotions of Ministry,” focusing on the life of the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 17—19. Scott’s first point was that pastors need to remember the mountaintop experiences. “Think of all the good things God has done,” he says. “We can list many. He has not abandoned you.”
Second, Scott says, pastors need to put discouraging times in perspective. “Satan wants ministry motion sickness,” he says. “You have to be careful that these problems can keep us from seeing the bigness of our God. The bigger we see our problems, the smaller we see our God. Remember God’s faithfulness and how He has used you in the things He has accomplished.”
Scott’s third point was that pastors need to climb out of the valley of discouragement—the valley of fear, loneliness, despair, or self-pity—one step at a time. “When we run away in fear, we are guaranteed to run the wrong direction, and fear will lead us to wrong ministry decisions,” he says. “We need to know, review, study, and memorize the promises of God. Study His Word—and Psalm 62 is a great place to start.”
Focusing on God’s Promises
Scott reminded the group that the attitude of the leader is the attitude of the team, and the attitude of the pastor becomes the attitude of the church. “You and I need to lead our people focused on His promises,” he says. “God never asked Elijah to be better than someone else. God just asked Elijah to be faithful. God is not asking you to be better than another pastor. He is asking you to be faithful as His child in your ministry.”
Citing the new Regular Baptist Press book No Contest by Mike Hess, Scott says, “Don’t compare yourself to other pastors and churches. It only leads to self-pity or pride when you compare.”
To combat these attitudes, Scott challenged the pastors to take four steps that were part of Elijah’s response in 1 Kings 19.
(1) The first step is the physical step of getting enough rest and eating healthy food.
(2) Second is the mental step of understanding that ministry is supernatural. “I can’t succeed when I rely on the natural,” Scott says. “I must call out to God, praying to him. I need spiritual strength and wisdom. It is God’s strength that will make all the difference in the world. Relying on God will lead to sustained strength.”
(3) Third is the verbal step of not exaggerating. Scott says pastors are prone to making things sounds better than they are and making problems sound bigger than they are. “We blow things out of proportion,” he says. “Take the verbal step of not exaggerating and start being truthful.”
(4) Fourth is the spiritual step of meeting with God in a private place away from the pressures of those needing pastoral help. Listen to God, Scott says. In 1 Kings 19, God doesn’t lecture, shame, or rebuke Elijah. God gently brings him back to reality.
Scott asks the pastors, What are you doing in ministry? Are you where you’re supposed to be? Are you fanning the flame of your spiritual gift? Are you being a good steward? Now is the time to plan what vision you can cast.
Scott ended by reminding pastors that, like Elijah, they are just part of God’s plan and that they are not the entirety of their ministry. “The ministry doesn’t revolve around you,” Scott says. “You have lay leaders to appoint and recruit. Don’t micromanage everything. You need to mentor others and let them run with responsibility. If you don’t learn to delegate, you will put a choke hold on your church. Let people run with ministry in your church and don’t hold them back. Delegate, mentor, and encourage.
“Remember, like Elijah, you are not alone.”