August 29, 2011

Why I'm Glad I "Have To"

Ministry life comes with a list of “have-tos,” those unspoken expectations and requirements. Your list may be different than mine, but I’m guessing you’ve got one. I have to attend all the services of the church. I have to loyally support the pastor and elders. I have to be hospitable. I have to reach out to church visitors.

What if I didn’t “have to”?

If I weren’t in ministry, would I attend church regularly? Probably, but I can remember how casually I skipped an occasional evening worship service when I was single. Would I be hospitable? Maybe, but wrestling three, six-pound pork roasts into the oven tonight was reason for doubt. Would I be supportive and welcoming and encouraging? Maybe. Maybe not.

I am, as hymn writer Robert Robinson said, “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.”

I look around and see the people in my church doing all the things on my list and more. And they don’t even have to. This leads me to the humbling conclusion that I have not been placed in ministry life because I am among the few and the proud. I have been placed in ministry life because I am weak. Jesus himself said, “’Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous but sinners.’” (Mark 2:17b)

The have tos of ministry life are just what my heavenly doctor ordered.

To illustrate: I am like a post-surgical patient who should faithfully do her knee exercises at home, but whose physician knows her weakness and so has scheduled her for daily sessions with a therapist. Without the rigorous treatment plan of ministry life, I could easily neglect to exercise my soul.

But, in my folly, I can sometimes view these ministry requirements as grounds for complaint. That’s when I need to read Psalm 23: “your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” My list of to-dos and have-tos are not a burden. They are the comfort of the Lord, directing me in “paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Who knows what the state of my soul would be without my list of have tos. I don’t doubt my God. But I do doubt my own soul’s desire to cling to Him, and I marvel at His gracious mercy in telling me I have to.


  1. This helps me have a more understanding view of people in my ministry. Honestly, I wouldn't participate in some lesser ways unless I "have to."

  2. Oooh, Megan - so convicting. I have only recently learned that since going from full-time ministry work on a church staff, to a "regular" congregation member, that I am much less energetic about the "have-tos" as I used to be. Convicting! The have-tos are designed to be delights, not burdens. It's not the list that needs the work; it's my heart. Thanks for your post!

  3. I'm hoping the Lord leaves me in ministry as long as it takes to form godly habits in my soul. (I suspect it could be a looong time!)

  4. I have often thought of this, and I KNOW that if I didn't have the "requirement" to be faithful as a pastor's wife, I'd be inclined to keep to myself and excuse the occasional miss. Sometimes it's so easy to want to stay home and just "hide" as opposed to go and feel watched at church, but, as you said, God has put me in this place for my own good. And, I would SOOO miss ministering to the people that God has brought into our home to love--we would never have met them had it not been for the ministry!!

  5. Uptown Frog, thanks for highlighting the blessing of friendships that would be missed if we didn't "have to" reach out! I totally agree.

  6. At least some of us who are not pastor's wives also have had this "have to" burden placed upon us by our heavenly Father through other means. Mine was an intense spiritual battle that continues to plague me though not as terribly as it once did. It caused me to be at church every time the doors were open. And I finally grew up in the faith. Not done yet, of course.


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