Average Church Discouragement in a Mega Church World

October 22, 2018  •  Lee Faler
discouraged pastor
Is it okay for me to be vulnerable? Is it okay for me to bear my soul with you, the reader for a moment? I’m assuming if you’re still reading this, then the answer is “yes.”
I struggle with staying encouraged. As a pastor of a church with an average attendance of less than 100, discouragement is something that I battle on a frequent basis. The discouragement is usually strongest on a Sunday when the attendance is waaaaaaayyyy down. In a small church like mine, when people are absent on a Sunday morning, you notice. In fact much of my Sunday afternoon, is usually spent identifying who was present and who wasn’t and immediately contacting them. Our church is small enough that you can easily tell who was there, and who wasn’t by simply looking around.
A few weeks ago our attendance was waaaaayyy down. Like, depressingly down. I must confess, after church I found myself envying megachurch pastors. They get all the social media shares. They get quoted. They get the applause from their congregations. They don’t have to make the phone calls and texts saying “we missed you at church today.” The discouragement piled on deeper and deeper.
But I fought against that discouragement and if you will let me I’ll share with you how I fought. In order to fight against this discouragement I took the following actions:

Ask

I asked myself several questions. Was I faithful with the word of God? Did I preach the passage with integrity? Did I faithfully preach the gospel? Did I present Jesus as the only means by which people can be saved? If I did that, then regardless of how good the attendance was, I did my job. That is something to be proud of.

Commit

I committed to not play the comparison game. The comparison game is a game where there are no winners. Peter liked to play the comparison game and received some pretty harsh words from our Lord. When Jesus told him what kind of death he would die in John 21, Peter’s response was “Jesus, what about John?” Do you remember what Jesus told Peter? He basically told him, “Mind your business. Let me worry about John. You, follow me!”
As long as we are constantly comparing ourselves to other people’s ministries we will always be discouraged. There will always be someone with a bigger church, and there will always be someone who preaches a better sermon. Here is what I have found thus far in ministry: I can’t’ run a good race, constantly looking over my shoulder in order to compare myself with other runners. God has not called me to comparison, but to faithfulness.

Remember

I remembered this encouraging truth from an unlikely passage, Isaiah 6. You’re probably familiar with the passage. Isaiah sees the Lord, becomes aware of his sinfulness, responds to the Lord’s commission by saying “Here I am! Send me!”
Wow! What an encouraging passage! Until we read past verse 8 that is. God tells Isaiah that he is to preach to a people who will not listen to him, and instead of his preaching softening hearts, his preaching will harden hearts. Isaiah is to do this until the Babylonian captivity ultimately. I’m willing to bet that none of us would sign up for such a gig.
How did this encourage me? I promise you I’m not that sadistic. God reminded me of this truth:
God does not judge success by our results, but by our faithfulness.
 
That truth is so freeing. As long as I am faithful to God’s call on my life, I’m successful. In fact if I’ll be faithful, I can trust the results to God and sleep in peace at night.
So what am I going to do? I will be faithful to the passage. I will not play the comparison game. No one wins that game. I will rest knowing that God is not rewarding me based on success, but instead on my faithfulness. With all the power that the gospel provides, let’s fight discouragement.

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