Two expectations that will kill your ministry

January 30, 2014

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given in ministry came from a man in Houston, Texas named G.B. Shelbourne.  He is a life-long missionary and has spent decades of his life working with people on the continent of Africa, and is a man I love and respect tremendously. He told me something one day that I’ve never forgotten, and I’d like to share it with you and invite you to be curious about how this might impact you.

G.B. and I were talking about ministry, and as a very young pastor, I was complaining about some of the more tedious tasks of ministry, and all he said was…

“When you build a house, people brag about the windows and the rooflines, not the foundation.”

Hey, nice siding!

Hey, nice siding!

As I asked him to explain to me what he meant, and I learned a lot in a short amount of time. They’re summed up in these two lessons.

1. Most of the things I do in ministry won’t get noticed.

No one will ever ask me after a sermon how many hours it took for me to write it, or how many different sources I studied, or how many times I had to edit it to make it worth speaking.  It’s likely that no one is going to ask me what I got out of the process of writing a sermon, they will simply remember how the Word impacted them.

2. The feedback I get will rarely be the feedback I’m wanting.

One of the more dreaded pieces of feedback we get in ministry is when someone pats us on the back and says “That was nice”, and they move along.  It’s church code for “I like you”.  That’s worth knowing, but it’s rarely as fulfilling as the words my selfish nature and pride are longing to hear.

 G.B. told me that 90% of the work I’ll do in ministry will be the laying of foundations and that allowing my significance to rise and fall on number 1 and 2 will ruin me.  Building ministries, setting up infrastructure, organizing, planning, and researching aren’t the sorts of things people get awards for – at least not on earth.  It’s not “sexy”.  But doing the work of building foundations in both ministries and in people is exactly what we’re called to do.  If I base my value and sense of worth based solely on what others notice in me, I’m doomed to a miserable life where I cease to see the value that Christ paid for me at the cross.

What we work for in ministry tells us a lot about….ourselves.  If we’re wanting accolades, lots of positive feedback, and for people to notice and appreciate all the hard work that goes into what we do, we’re not working for the Kingdom, we’re working for ourselves.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go pour some more concrete.


By Sam Middlebrook. Sam is a husband, and father of four kids. He speaks fluent Texan, loves grilling, fishing and football, and is the lead pastor of CTK Yakima.


  1. Reblogged this on All Truth Is God's Truth and commented:
    This is a short but powerful blog, the lessons of which apply to parenting as well as ministry.

  2. That is very true man of God, may you blessed for sharing what shaped you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: