Ministry is a difficult job to say the very least. There are constant demands for your time, you have to be able to multi-task to keep up, and sometimes you have to have difficult conversations with people you love dearly. The reason for the difficult nature of the job is that ministers focus on bringing light to bear on the deepest, darkest sectors of our communities. When anyone does this, they will invariably encounter opposition, which they are not able to conquer alone.
Ministry is also difficult because successful ministry leads to more contact with darkness. Evangelicals, like myself, do many outreach events as a church body. The purpose of these events is to reach out into the community and impact people with the gospel. Of course, as we reach into our community, we consistently come into contact with deeper and deeper elements of darkness. This darkness could be as seemingly innocuous as a new Christian with a penchant for lying, or it could be as heinous as deplorable examples of sexual sin. As we do successful ministry, we have to deal with these dark areas of society that most people would rather pretend don’t exist.
One powerful tool for ministers when encountering this darkness is a high theology of scripture. When he encountered the darkness of idol worship in his day, Jeremiah unleashed a heart-wrenching jeremiad concerning Israel’s wayward priesthood. To encourage this minister who was encountering darkness, God asked him a rhetorical question: “‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the Lord, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?’”
When we do successful ministry, we will invariably encounter different forms of darkness. That is simply what ministry is. We should not be dismayed at this darkness, however; instead, we should bring the full power of God’s word to bear on the darkness. The change may not be immediate; after all, fire doesn’t instantly consume a tree, and a hammer doesn’t break a large rock in a single blow. Given time, however, fire devours forests and small hammers reshape mountains.
When we encounter darkness in ministry, let us be steadfast in proclaiming God’s powerful word. For preachers, this means that nothing can substitute powerful, biblically-grounded preaching from a preacher living a holy life. For youth ministers, this means that Bible studies must be firmly rooted in the biblical text. For Christians in general, this means that we should have great confidence in the power of God’s word to counteract darkness, both the darkness in the world and the darkness in our own hearts.
Notes & Sources
 Jeremiah 23:29, NIV.