When I Fail At Ministry


Sometimes I fail at ministry.  I have the Scripture selected and know it intimately; I can exegete failed it flawlessly.  I’ve selected each song that we will sing and, with perfect precision, have tuned my guitar.  I have mapped out my time with the inmates and know what ground I hope to cover with them.  And, worst of all, I leave my home feeling confident.

What I have failed to remember is that I am engaged in a spiritual battle, fought on a spiritual plain.  I have forgotten that I am not wrestling with “flesh and blood,” and therefore, I didn’t plan for that type of fight.  I didn’t pray for the congregation who would be gathering with me.  I didn’t pray that God would open their hearts or quiet their souls.  I hadn’t named them as individuals.  I hadn’t fasted so that my soul would be strengthened.

Recently, this had been my experience.  I went to the jail feeling prepared – and on one level I was.  But on the most important, spiritual level, I was not ready.  Immediately, I had sensed it.  I had walked in unfitted for the ministry that night.  I was unguarded. Ill-equipped. I was spiritually dulled.

Guilt and grief filled my spirit.  I stumbled through the hour praying that any ground I had gained with the men would not suddenly be lost because of my selfishness.  How could I have been so stupid?  How could I have let myself fall into this trap? I know better.

I left seeking forgiveness.  I have been entrusted to a mission field, while many who are more ably qualified and less selfish pray for the opportunity that I had just taken for granted.  Lord, may I never forget the lesson of failure and may I never repeat it while in Your employ.  

It is one thing to experience the failure of ministry with someone who does not grasp the light.  It is quite another thing to fail in bringing that light.

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.    Psalm 51:12-13

Dane Cramer is a backpacker, Christian blogger, jail chaplain, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us.



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