Cultivate. Cherish. Protect.



by A. Denise Bell, Regional Minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Georgia

Cultivate, cherish, and protect your call to ministry.

It was one afternoon after a series of late night meetings, hospital visits, and yet another rote ministry function. I was exhausted, and unimpressed with the small group that hung behind to debrief the ministry event. From a deep place, I heard myself say, “Ministry to me has become like a faded love in a marriage that has waxed cold. I don’t love you anymore but I am not going anywhere.” I sensed in my spirit, the Holy Spirit saying, “Then leave, you do me no favors by staying.”

I was startled to think that I had become so numb and disconnected from my love of serving the church that I was just hanging on by a thread. I was shocked by the thought that if I did not deal with my condition, by default I would dismiss myself from a future of vital ministry. Fortunately, because of God’s grace, mercy and unconditional love, I was invited to participate in a Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Program. It saved my life and ministry. I fell in love again with God, the people of God, and the privilege to serve.

Joy unspeakable rules in my heart!

Somewhere in the midst of ministry, I forgot to cultivate, cherish, and protect my call to love and serve the Lord. We do God no favors, and in fact may cause damage to the people of God, when our active and engaging love for God and service waxes cold. We must learn and practice ways to continue to cultivate, cherish, and protect our call.

A call to ministry requires a lifetime of cultivating a deep love and joy for creating meaningful conversations and communities of faith. The never ceasing expectations and demands to pour into the lives of others can lead to a lonely and isolated life. The dynamics in ministry often require new approaches and insights that emerge by being in community with others. I had to avail myself so that others could pour into my life. I sought out authentic peer and mentor relationships. I endeavor now to grow deeper in the expressions of my faith by being a lifelong learner.

We must cherish our relationship with the Lord and our call to serve God’s people. I had to develop new habits so as not to allow the juggle of conflicting priorities to consume my life. Unchecked ministry boundaries can harm our relationship with the Lord. I now spend quality time with the Lord in prayer, reflection, and study. I consult the Lord in every situation and pull away often to refresh the joy of service. Our efficacy in ministry comes from God and not our own efforts. Through Christ we have unlimited access to the power of the Holy Spirit.

Lastly, I realized that I must protect the call. We protect the call by living a holy life. We must not fall prey to behaviors, the pressures of the world, or standards contrary to living a life worthy of the high calling of God. I must protect the call because I am indebted to the clergy who paved the way for me and kept the faith. Additionally, I am responsible to future clergy who will follow after my legacy. Moreover, I must protect the call on behalf of fellow clergy so as to model and strengthen our collective resolve to love Jesus and feed and care for the people of God until that day that we hear the Master’s voice saying, “Well done good and faithful servant!”

Being a minister is one of the most difficult jobs that one can have. That said, I believe that if you remember to cultivate, cherish and protect your call to ministry, it can be one of the most rewarding jobs. Granted, there will be times that it will be hard, but it will always be worthwhile!