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Are you feeling inadequate?

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Posted by Simon Donohoe, 4 Feb 2021

Simon Donohoe continues our series of encouragement for ministers who are struggling.

Where do ministers go when they’ve got a Sunday off in lockdown? As a family we visited the sitting room! A couple of weeks ago we had a Sunday off, a rest for me from the surreality of livestreaming from my study, and an opportunity as a family to go anywhere in the world to church! We tuned into the Sunday morning live-stream of a church where a friend from college currently serves. It was a wonderfully encouraging service, full of heart warming gospel truth. However, half way through the service I noticed something going on in my heart. My heart began to play an ugly game of spot the difference. It’s one of the common colds of the pastor’s heart: the temptation to compare our ministry to others.

Perhaps at no time in history has it been easier to do this. On a Sunday morning my Facebook feed is creaking full of preachers in full flow. Throughout the week YouTube channels are bursting with pastoral encouragements. Yet, playing spot the difference is not good for the heart. When I do, I begin to feel uncomfortably inadequate (which is simply a species of pride). In these days of lockdown livestreams it’s easy to feel inadequate. I’m not surrounded by a gifted staff team with abundant technical resources or an attractive online presence. It’s not hard to feel inadequate when people can tune in with ease to a more exciting online service with a more prestigious preacher (and nobody will ever notice they’re missing a Sunday morning). In my pride I feel inadequate and ashamed of it.

However, there’s nothing new here. I was inadequate before. The current situation has only turned up the lights a little more. With so many aspects of ministry going online during the pandemic my inadequacies are simply more clearly displayed to a far wider audience.

I’m inadequate. But that’s exactly the point. It’s meant to be this way. I am meant to be inadequate. Christ does not call us to be under-shepherds because of our sufficiency. The apostle Paul himself declared: “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16). Our confidence in ministry was never meant to be in ourselves but in Christ and His means of grace.

Instead of trying to submerge our weakness under the sea, true freedom, rest and joy is found in embracing our inadequacy. We are weak by design so that we might find rest in the infinite strength and perfect adequacy of our Triune God. Our ministry is weak by design so that our confidence would ever rest in Him.

I am inadequate…but Scripture is not inadequate. It is not merely one tool in our pastoral kit, but the whole toolkit. It is the God-breathed Word which gives us all we need to be “complete, equipped for every good work” (2Timothy 3:16-17). I am never lacking the right resources.

I am inadequate…but the gospel which is the pulsing heart of Scripture is not inadequate. It is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). The power is always in the gospel not in the careful crafting of my rhetoric, or my sparkling personality.

I am inadequate…but the Son whose dazzling radiance radiates from the gospel is not inadequate. He is the One who “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). He is the One who has finished his work of “making purification for sins” and is now “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:4). There’s only one Saviour…and it’s not me.

I am inadequate…but the Father whom the Son reveals is not inadequate. He is the One who compassionately draws men and women to Christ (John 6:44). People will not ultimately be drawn to Christ by my technical expertise in putting together a YouTube clip, but by the merciful sovereign work of the Father.

I am inadequate…but the Spirit who is sent by the Father and the Son is not inadequate. He is the One who alone gives true life to dead hearts (John 3:5-6). No matter how passionate and persuasive my preaching is, without the invisible work of the Spirit in the hearts of my hearers it’s just as effective as reading out the shipping forecast.

I am inadequate…and that’s exactly the point. I am inadequate by design that I might place my confidence in Him. I am meant to be inadequate that I might find freedom, rest and joy in His perfect adequacy. My ministry is meant to be inadequate so that it might be a signpost pointing others to the One who is adequate, and infinitely so.

As yet another YouTube livestream exposes my inadequacies, the Lord is mercifully giving me the opportunity to find deeper joy in Him.

Simon Donohoe is the minister of the Swanlinbar Group of Churches in County Cavan, Ireland.

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