Ministry Toolbox

2 Corinthians 11:23–28

Paul reminds us that physical, emotional, and spiritual peril during the pastor’s or missionary’s earthy sojourn is to be expected. While God promises never to allow sinful temptation to be greater than we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13), there is no promise concerning unbearable peril and circumstance. As the hymn phrase says, “Through many dangers, toils, and snares we have already come.”

As Paul wrote to the local church at Philippi, he was fully prepared to live and to die in prison. Jesus told the apostles not to fear anyone who can destroy only the body. Opposition, assault, and even murder are distinct possibilities for faithful servants of Jesus Christ. This truth is confirmed on the sacred page and in the historical record. Yet the primary peril we face is of another sort—the peril from within. Often we are our own worst enemy. Consider the following self-induced perils that ministry leaders commonly face.

  • Peril #1—The inner voice demanding approval of others
    Whenever you are complimented or criticized, it is best not to take it too seriously. If you are walking with the Lord, you will know if your service rendered was in the Spirit or in the flesh. The opinions of the saints do little to inform or help. Wean yourself from the desire to be stroked.
  • Peril #2—An ambition for the name of God that falls outside the will of God
    Richard Exley said, “We are not tempted to do bad things as much as we are tempted to try things God has not called us to do.” The unassigned task can knock you right off your feet. It is easy to become overextended and thereby underdeveloped. “Busy” and “godly” are not the same. Holy ambition is rich in quality relationships with God and mankind.
  • Peril #3—The lure of interpersonal relationships that are not well defined
    A clear evidence of moral breakdown in our nation is the inability of people to define their relationships with precision and priority. The local church is not a business venture or a hippie commune. You are not a pope or a puppet. Reexamine the circles of intimacy evident in the life of our Lord. Understand afresh the distinctions between family and church family. Honor God in both. It’s required!
  • Peril #4—The love and fear of controversy
    One pastor loves the fight; the other fears the fight and avoids it at all costs. The one leader is inclined to become brutal; the other is inclined to become bashful. Both pastors lack the balance of the Scriptures. We are called to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers. Tranquility is impossible to achieve by anything less than addressing matters with courage and compassion. We should not seek, nor fear, controversy.

Based upon our own experience and challenge, each of us has our own set of perils. One thing for sure, Satan seeks to use our bents to his wicked benefit. As God’s servants, we must pay close attention to ourselves and to the Scriptures.

Tim Teall, Pastor
Perry Baptist Church
Canton, Ohio
(Reprinted by permission from Peer Pastorale newsletter)