Guest Contributor: Vicki Johnson

God-honoring relationships are the heart of effective ministry.

I’ve known this since I said, “I do” to my pastor husband.  To put this into perspective, we managed to squeeze in a home visitation between our wedding reception and the honeymoon suite. Yep, ministry is relationships and relationships involve people.

Fast forward fifteen years or so to an average Sunday morning with five children in tow. Five minutes to go before the end of the service and I could execute my plan to get from point A, the sea of church people, to point B, my sanctuary, our car.

Advancing toward my safe haven.

Target acquired.

Breathe.

What’s the matter with me?

How had I traded wholehearted, grace-filled ministry for survival at all costs? I could reason there were needy children, my husband’s demanding schedule, or any number of church- related involvements that triggered my instinct for self-protection.

The terrible truth was that my love for ministry was dying.

Each congregation has its joy-givers and its joy-suckers. The delicate balance for a pastor’s wife is keeping the right perspective of the two. Somewhere along the way, I had lost my ability to do that.  A subtle resentment crept into my attitude, evidenced in how and what I related to my husband. Being the true shepherd he is, he heard me out and cautioned me not to hold onto offences.

But I was doing the work of servant with the attitude of a slave.

Eventually David asked me to stop sharing all my negative notions with him, explaining they were becoming a burden to his ability to minister. He continually pointed me to the only One who could replace my heart of stone with a heart of flesh.

I needed regenerative heart therapy, and the steps God showed me are found in Psalm 51:10-13 {NASB}:

10      Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

My stony heart was cutting off my ability to be responsive to the Holy Spirit. The first step in restoration was to acknowledge the need to be restored. I desperately needed God to do what I could not: form in me a new, unstained heart with a steadfast desire to keep it pure and pleasing to Him. 

11      Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Do I really understand how sin breaks my fellowship with God?  Continual, un-repented sin offends God and until I confess my sin, I will be out of His presence, or “behind the face;” inhospitable to the Holy Spirit.

12      Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.

When I first came to Jesus an overwhelming joy filled my heart. As my heart hardened, there was no overflow bubbling over with anything except stony words. I needed the Lord to bring me back to His joy-spring to be refilled.

13      Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You.

I know firsthand the mercy and grace given to those of us who have rebelled and returned to the Lord, I now know how and why His ways are life-giving, noble and joy-filled. Because of my experiences, I am uniquely able to teach other rebels and direct them back to Him, just as He mercifully did with me.

When we lose the ability to fully offer ourselves to people, our effectiveness wanes. If you find that your heart no longer pulses with love for ministry as it once did, I encourage you to go to Jesus and invite Him to walk you through Psalm 51. The Lord {and only Him} can and will rescue us from our toughened hearts and restore us to be joyful ministers of His grace.

Deeper Still: How would you rate your overall relational health? What is one thing you’re willing to commit to in order to improve that?

 

 Vicki JohnsonVicki lives in southeastern Pennsylvania with her pastor hubby, David, and daughter, Esther, while her four sons, two daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren live in the Twin Cities area in Minnesota. She has just settled into her third home in the last four years and is looking forward to putting down roots, geographically and horticulturally. She works as an on air announcer at 1075AliveFM/WBYN where her radio sign-off is 1 Thessalonians 5:24 “Faithful is He who calls you, and He will bring it to pass.” Vicki writes at: http://gracefilledgirl.com, offering a cup of cool water for the marathon of life.

About JoAnn Fore

Jo Ann helps busy, go-getter women stop ignoring the signals that they're doing too much. As an author and Life Coach, she helps them learn how to make time for themselves so they can start loving their lives again. You can connect with her at JoAnnFore.com.