I called up a friend for lunch and then I called him up over lunch. By that I mean I encouraged him to see his service as a sort of special assignment from on high. My friend isn’t just frustrated with his job; he is disappointed with the lack of results. Now, if I told you where he worked and what he did, you would admire him. While you definitely wouldn’t envy his challenging setting, you would envy his high calling. His role makes him a sort of rock star to many, including me. However, even though he knows that, it’s just not enough. He’s still tired and would like to quit.
How do you know when it’s time to quit? Believe it or not, most people who enter ministry, even though beginning with great enthusiasm, eventually end up dropping out. The drop out rate is something like fifty percent within the first 5-7 years, then it gets worse! Only about ten percent of those that remain after the initial glow wears off actually remain active in ministry for the full run. Just ten percent!
In short, most who start well never finish well. Why? At the risk of generalizing too much let me offer a few reasons:
- Inadequate support: they feel under paid and under affirmed by those they seek to serve.
- Inadequate disciplines: they fail to exercise spiritually and physically.
- Inadequate guardrails: they forget their humanity and naively succumb to the allure of forbidden fruit.
- Inadequate awareness: they forget they have an Enemy out to destroy them and all they hold dear.
- Inadequate friendships: they postpone building and servicing deep relationships with others to whom they can safely bare their soul.
The same day I called up my friend over lunch I also called up someone via email. I replied to a pastor wondering whether or not he has the band width for a Covenant Group. It’s a big commitment. A three year commitment should not be entered into lightly. However, this I know, groups like the ones I help to catalyze and lead are for leaders too busy to be in one! So I called him up by asking, which season are you? I asked:
- Are you just coming out of a season of great challenge?
- Are you in the middle of a season of great challenge?
- Are you heading into a season of great challenge?
Those questions were intended to call him up. I was encouraging him to see that the best time to get ready for a challenge is long before it even begins. Sadly, most times many of us wait too long. That’s true with everything from stocking up on basic essentials, building a retirement nest egg or investing in healthy friendships. There’s a popular Chinese proverb that says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
I love to be “called up” and I love to do the same for others. We all need the regular reminder that what we do really matters. High callings all begin with the realization that even ordinary jobs and ministries are special assignments. The key is whether they are done with Christ and for Him.
I need to be regularly called up, how about you? “May He give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11 – NLT.