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Loneliness in Ministry

The apostle Paul was a great missionary, sometimes traveling with companions and being
imprisoned for their faith (Acts 16:25), and sometimes isolated and alone. Listen as Paul
describes his loneliness to Timothy:

Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted
me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia.
Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in
my ministry. I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with
Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. Alexander the metalworker
did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too
should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message. At my
first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held
against them (2 Tim 4:9-16).

Jesus himself often needed to withdraw in seclusion (Lk 5:16) and sometimes became frustrated from his followers’ dim eyes and heart, and their failure to understand (Mt 17:17).

Likewise, being a follow of Jesus can be lonely. Being in the paid full-time ministry can be even
more so. There are so many great benefits to being in the ministry (i.e. the paid supported
vocation referred to in 1 Tim 5:17-18 and 1 Cor 9:7-14). But anyone who does it for very long
had better love it immensely, for it can be difficult and often quite lonely. Part counselor, part
teacher, part herald, part leader, part comforter, part preacher, part trainer, part visionary, part
administrator, planner, organizer, and mascot. All the while, there are typically not many (or
any) others nearby who can relate very well. People of course mean well, and relate in some
ways, but the ministry is such a specific calling and vocation type that it can be hard to
completely understand. I imagine it to be a cross between the schedule of a doctor who is always
on call, the emotional toll of a professional psychological counselor, having the fickle fanfare of
the latest winning (or losing) team, all the while being supported financially by people to do and
say things that at many times they don’t want to hear.

A word to those who are, or have, considered ministry as a full-time vocation: allow God to
purify your heart and motives, for it is truly a calling. It needs to be something that you desire to
do above all other things vocationally, and something you are willing to endure the times of
loneliness for.

I doubt I could know something as glorious, and as difficult as following Christ. And to be able
to be involved in ministry full-time is such an amazing gift and joy, but it is not without its trials
and difficulties, chief of which perhaps is loneliness.

So when you feel lonely in ministry, try pursuing friendship. Another person in ministry,
perhaps? You might find that, in so doing, you have helped two people be less lonely.

(You can read more from Jon’s blog at www.jonsherwood.com. Used with permission.)

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