Ministry can be extremely rewarding when pastors see real change in the lives of their congregation members, new people are coming to a fuller and deeper relationship with Christ, and the community begins to change for the better around the church. This is what it is all about–bringing the kingdom of God to fruition as an outpost here and now. When it happens, it is exhilarating.
For some, though, ministry can be depressing as pastors deliver messages of hope, of transformation, of inspiration, of discipleship and mission, and the congregation members do nothing. There is no real response in their lives at all. Ezekiel knew this well:
As for you, human one, your people talk about you beside the walls and in their doorways. One by one, they say to each other, “Let’s go hear what sort of message has come from the Lord.” So they come to you as people do, and they sit before you as my people. They listen to your words, but they refuse to do them. Though they speak of their longing for me, they act out of their own interests and opinions. To them you are like a singer of love songs with a lovely voice and skilled technique. They listen to your words, but no one does them.
God has seen this kind of behavior before now. God knows when people congregate, listen but do not hear, and go about their lives as if the church is there only to be a chaplain to their lives, blessing what they themselves want to do. God knows when people ignore the call to holiness, faithfulness, discipleship, mission, and ministry. And God will ultimately take care of such people as is just and fitting in God’s eyes.
If you are a congregation member or regular attender at a church, ask yourself if you truly listen, hear, and endeavor to implement what you hear from your pastor. This question does presuppose that the pastor is proclaiming truth, and you will have to measure that with Scripture and how the Church has understood that Scripture for the last 2000 years. Just because it may be an issue with which you disagree does not mean it is not from the Lord. The Gospel is an equal-opportunity offender on the right and the left. It has something to say about greed and immigration just as much as it does about homosexuality and the sanctity of life. It has something to say about self-righteous activists and complacent spectators.
Pastors, if you have congregation members that simply will not engage with what you present, make sure your message lines up with the Bible and how it has been interpreted for the last 2000 years. If it does, do not worry about people like this. You are responsible to preach the word. They are responsible for what they do with it after you preach it. Do not take another’s responsibility on as your own burden. You be faithful to God, and let God deal with the faithfulness, or lack thereof, of others.