Over the past few months, I have picked up a new activity — bicycling. Northwest Arkansas is full of trails so, in theory, it should be easy to get out there and exercise. While not always easy, it has been fun. However, this past weekend, I overdid it. It is easy to do. When you ride out and then back, it is easy to think, “What is another mile or two? It won’t be that hard.” All I can really say is that mistakes were made. We completed 30 miles, but I was completely done when we made it back. My riding buddies did much better. They are a couple of years younger than this old man and are in better shape. I did make it back though.
Why do I share about my crazy biking adventure? I share it because of how it parallels our lives in ministry. With proper training and motivation, you can go on for the long haul. Without those things, you may or may not make it to the end. The shorter rides helped carry me to 20 miles, but the last 10 were only possible because of the people I had with me. In the end, I still had to crawl into my house when I got back home; but I didn’t quit.
Over the years, I have seen too many men quit the long ride of ministry. They have stepped away because it got too hard. My heart breaks for them and the potential of how God was going to use them. How do we keep going and make it to the end of the ride? After 30 years of ministry, here are a few ideas I have on the subject:
• Train. A long ride on a bicycle is only possible when you train. You can desire to go the distance all you want, but if you don’t spend time with the shorter rides, the long ones become impossible. For those in ministry, training comes in two forms. There is the educational route of seminary and Bible college. There is also the route of internships and residencies. If you have a heart for ministry, take the time to train. Learn as much as you can. It will take you farther in your ministry. If you want to support those heading into ministry, help them get that training. Provide tuition for their educational endeavors and provide opportunities for those new to ministry to serve and learn under an experienced pastor.
• Have encouragers in your life. We all need someone beside us cheering us on when times get tough. At about mile 20, my brother started saying, “Only 10 more left, you can do it.” He even gave me some key advice as we approached a downhill and uphill section that would have been problematic given our distance in the ride. Friends and mentors can make all the difference as we seek to honor God in the long ride of ministry.
• Understand your purpose. As I rode along, I started wondering why I was even out there. I had my phone and my debit card. I seriously considered calling an Uber and bailing. While I am too cheap to spend money on an Uber, I definitely considered calling for a pick-up from someone. What helped me keep going was the knowledge that I need to get in better shape because the pandemic was not kind to me as I ate too much and moved too little. If you understand your purpose, you can accomplish much. I serve my church and God’s people to bring Him honor. Obedience drives me as I seek to fulfill God’s purpose for my life. I want to keep going for His sake.
Ministry can be tough. It can feel like a long ride you didn’t prepare for well enough, but that doesn’t change its importance. Ministers, spend time prepping for your ride. Church members, pray and support the ministers in your life so they will be able to complete the long ride and accomplish all that God has for them.