In ministry, as in life, there are good days, happy days and "Lord, have mercy" days, said the Rev. Alice Ridgill at the opening worship of the National New Church Development Conference, here Aug. 9-12.
"Discouragement and frustration are a part of life, and they are a part of ministry — any ministry," Ridgill said. "It ebbs and it flows."
All pastors face hard times. Even those who know how to mask it well have felt discouraged. But the key is to get past discouragement, not prevent discouragement.
"The key is in preventing discouragement in ministry from staying when it does come," Ridgill said. "In ministry and in life, it's all about the attitude that we take."
If pastors are to stay encouraged, they must be intentional about their attitudes. Ten percent of ministry is what happens, and 90 percent is how we respond.
"I confess, sometimes I wonder if I’m even worthy to serve God's people," Ridgill said. She is the organizing pastor for The New Faith Church, a Presbyterian new church development in Greenwood, S.C.
But she keeps in mind that she's not alone, and that her worthiness doesn't depend on her — Jesus covered everyone's worthiness on the cross. And Jesus didn't leave us alone. The Holy Spirit is with and within all of us, helping pastors to carry the load of ministry.
"We serve a God who always finishes what He started," Ridgill said, speaking about Philippians 1:6, one of the four scripture passages she preached. "If God started it, He's going to see it through to resolution."
Ridgill also preached on Ephesians 3:20, which states, "Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine."
"Whether we ever see the fruit of our labor or not, the Holy Spirit is always with us … helping us to bring glory to God," Ridgill said.
She urged pastors to stand firm and to give themselves fully to the work of evangelism, church development, discipleship and pasturing. If anyone had reason to be discouraged in ministry, it was Paul. But he didn't let that feeling linger — he reminded himself that his labor was not in vain.
"Your labor in the Lord is not in vain," Ridgill said.
She told pastors to "hang in there" through the hard times, when there is slow progress, few volunteers and disrupted plans.
"Even though sometimes we feel alone, we're not alone because God is with us," she said. "God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or even imagine.
"Brothers and sisters, this thing called 'ministry' is a wonderful thing."