When you need to stop serving

ministry idol. idol of ministry, ministry, serving in church too muchSometimes I think I’m not a very good Christian because I spend way too much time in church.

If I’m not attending or leading a Bible study then I’m at a prayer meeting. Or at a youth service. Or at an event. Or at a leaders meeting of some sort.

And the list can go on.

There have been some weeks I told myself it would have been better for me to just spend the night at church because there was no point of coming home for a few hours.

When I was younger I used to think that the more time I spent at church-related functions the closer to God I would be.

The more “spiritual’ I was.

And now that I’ve been in ministry for ten years I can see how far from the truth that is.

For me personally often times all it shows is not how much I love Jesus but how much of a religion our relationship is becoming.

In fact, if I might be bold enough to say I think there have been times in my life when ministry stopped being something I did out of an overflow of love for Jesus and a heart willing to serve but because it became an idol to me.

It became something I found my identity in.

Something that if taken away from me, I wouldn’t know who I would be without.

It’s easy to point out people’s worldly idols that consume their time, efforts, and energy.

Idols such as possessions, jobs, or relationships.

But it’s hard to see that ministry could be an idol.

We are often blind to “religious” idols because after all, how can going to church, serving in a ministry, or attending one more planning meeting be bad?

In and of themselves they are not bad.

They are all helpful in our spiritual growth and walk with Christ.

But the problem comes when we use them to replace God in our lives.

When we get so busy doing things FOR God that we forget to spend time WITH God.

Sometimes we are confused about what we consider idolatry because we imagine it to be a statue or an image we bow down to just like in the Old Testament days (and even now in different parts around the world.)

But all it really is is anything that can replace Jesus in our lives.

And sadly, even ministry can fall under that category.

I think the enemy is very sneaky in this regard.

He knows he’s not going to tempt me to go to the bar on Friday night and get me away from Jesus that way but I can be tempted to be at church every single night of the week doing good things… and yet get even more distant from Jesus with each day.

I am like Martha, serving away in the kitchen (in my case, the church) to prepare something for Jesus while the whole time I am ignoring Him.

I’ve caught myself in this trap often.

I’m so busy preparing Bible study lessons for my small group that I don’t even spend time one on one with God simply reading His Word for myself.

I’m so busy planning lessons to teach my teens on Sunday at church about spending time with God to actually spend time with God myself.

I’m so busy planning and participating in events with the goal to encourage others to draw closer to Jesus when in the busyness of planning I am stepping even further and further away from Him.

The irony is not lost on me.

The very things that were meant to draw others to Christ were the things that were drawing me away.

All of these things are good and right and worth doing.

But even in ministry, I think there is a limit of what you can do before it become merely a religious idol.

If you are in ministry you know it becomes an idol with it replaces your time with God.

When it gets in the way of ministry to your own family.

When it consumes your life to the point that you start getting burned out.

And when we get to that point we need to tear down those idols as pastor Mel writes about in his post on religious idolatry.

We need to stop putting serving God above God Himself.

I think serving is good and that every believer plays a vital role in the local and global body of Christ and that no one should be a benchwarmer whose only commitment to church is to come and warm up the seats on Sunday morning.

We all have something we can contribute by serving those around us and we should serve at church.

We should attend planning meetings to come up with new ways to bless the community.

We should go to prayer services to encourage one another in prayer.

We should attend Bible studies to grow in Christ through His Word.

We should use our talents and gifts to expand the kingdom of God.

But none of these things should be done at the expense of our relationship with God.

You need to know that (unless you are a pastor or minister paid by the church to be there) you should not be living at the church.

You need to have at least one free night or two to simply enjoy time alone with God or your loved ones.

Time when you are not worrying about your next planning meeting, your next event, or your next lesson.

I wish I could be in every ministry that the church offers.

I would do youth, and teen, and children’s ministry, and ushering, and worship (well… they would kick me out of that one pretty quickly since I can’t carry a tune to save my life) 😉 but you get the point.

I don’t have it in me to sit still and do nothing to serve and sometimes it feels out of place for me to show up to church and not be teaching my teens or greeting church members at the entrance that day.

But I have learned that I can’t and I shouldn’t do it all if I want to serve Christ effectively with my life.

Because I need to have moments like Mary where I simply stop doing and just sit still at the feet of Jesus and be ministered by Him.

My challenge to you is this: if you are a Martha and you find yourself living at the church and serving others then make time to be like Mary this week and spend time alone with Jesus doing absolutely nothing but sitting at His feet.

If you are a Mary and all you do is spend time alone with God and reading His Word then learn from Martha and get up and learn to serve others around you in some way. Every member of the church is vital to the growth of the body of Christ and if you don’t contribute to it in any way then it might cause some parts to suffer.

Never forget that you need a balance of both serving and being served lest your ministry becomes an idol to you.

Be blessed and continue ministering to others faithfully and spending time alone with God.  -Anna… 

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”-1 Peter 4:10

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38 thoughts on “When you need to stop serving

  1. Thank you so so much for this post Anna. I never usually write messages on peoples blogs but I have to just thank you. I have been wrestling with this feeling of being in the overwhelmed, confused and feeling guilty for about 6 months deciding whether or not I should leave or at least take a break from my Youth ministry. I have been praying for so long and then I was just scrolling and this blog came up on google and the words have literally released me.

    SOO much was relevant but especially when you said: ‘It became something I found my identity in. Something that if taken away from me, I wouldn’t know who I would be without.’ I often get anxiety thinking what will I do with my Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays and all of the other activities etc who will I be without being part of this Youth Ministry or am I bad Christian.

    This line ‘When we get so busy doing things FOR God that we forget to spend time WITH God.’ literally made me realise I have to make a change because originally my heart and intentions were pure but slowly it just becomes works and something you feel obligated to do.

    Thank you for allowing God to use you through this blog and spreading the truth and light in such a beautiful way. This has honestly been that encouragement I needed.

    God Bless you and may God continue to speak to many through your blog!
    Thank you. xxx


  2. Thank you for sharing. I have gone to a few churches in my life and at one church that I used to go to with a friend was all about ministry and youth group. I was a teen at the time and I felt burdened and overwhelmed by having too many activities and events to commit to in church. I have tried saying no to attending such events, etc. but I always got bulldozed. My friend and her mom always went to my mom every time I said no to something, then I was obligated to go. To me, these activities and events did not have any significant value to me. I was just hanging out with people who didn’t have a lot of respect for other people. As a result, I appreciated that church less and less every week and ended up leaving altogether when I was in my twenties.

    I know that there is a difference between weekly activities and church ministries, but from my experience with being bullied into committing to petty activities every single week, I have the impression that if I were to join a ministry that they would take advantage and drop extra responsibility on me. I am glad that you pointed out that too much ministry can take you away from God because in the back of my mind I always felt that way, but never said it to anyone. I don’t know how others handle doing ministry or tasks while in church, but I feel that when I was doing something in the church, or taking on a task during a service, I tend to be pre occupied like I am waiting for my queue instead of paying attention to the service and pastor. If I do decided to get involved with a ministry in the church I now go to, I will need to find out what kind of a commitment they require and consider whether I am able to handle it and maintain my responsibilities outside of church, as well as down/alone time with God.


  3. I grew as a pastors child, ‘ministry’ was bestowed on my the day I was born. In the last 3 years God has placed in a position that I have not been able to do ministry. You know I discovered something amazing during this time. I recently moved states and on my leaving I was approached by many different people and they all said the same thing… “You have ministered to me so much this past year…” I was shocked, my question was when? Their answers amazed me, they basically all answered things when you spoke to me at school, when you called me, when sand in church, when walk with me and talked with. All the scenarios they spoke about were just me being me, the person in love with Jesus. It has made me rethink ministry. Now I think wherever I am if I have Jesus with me then I can minister to someone. Don’t get me wrong it is important to volunteer in a church, it is a part of being in a family, but ministry should not be restricted to this.


    • Amen! That’s such a beautiful testimony and revelation of how ministry is so much more than what happens inside of church but what happens beyond church service on Sunday morning or Bible studies and youth group on a weeknight. Once we see ministry from that perspective we will be able to live our lives differently for Christ knowing that everything that we do can minister to people if we only allow God to work through us. Thank you so much for sharing this! May you keep on being an encouragement and blessing to everyone around you (as you already are). Have a wonderful weekend!


  4. How absolutely true this is, Anna! It is amazing how anything can get in the way of our relationship with God. It is always a work in progress to safe guard that most precious relationship. Thank you for the reminder about Mary and Martha, as well. It will leave me contemplating how I could best use my time this week. Thank you for another beautiful post! 🙂


    • Thanks Marla. Yes, even the “good” things in life can get in the way or our relationship with Jesus if we aren’t careful. We have to always remind ourselves that the most important thing will always be to choose Him over anything else that is happening in our lives and once we do He’ll give us the strength and guidance to help us fulfill what we need to once we’re back on our feet doing the things He calls us to. 🙂 I hope you have a blessed weekend!


  5. This really spoke to my heart, Anna. I’m on the worship team at church, and I struggle with a lot of these things. I think that most of all I am guilty of finding my identity in my ministry. We find our identity in Jesus and in nothing and no one else, but it is so easy to forget that. Every day I have to remind myself why I serve. Not for the sake of serving, but for Jesus.
    Thank you so much for this, and God bless! 🙂


    • I think everyone in ministry has struggled with that to some extent. Once we do something for so long it’s hard to define who we are apart from it which is why (just like you are already doing) we need to remind ourselves who our identity is in (Jesus) and that we serve because He calls us to and because of our love for Him and for no other reason. When we have those two things straightened out it becomes easier to serve wholeheartedly with a freedom and passion that comes only from Him. May you continue to serve Him faithfully in worship, not just on stage but every day. 😉 Be blessed! ♥

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So true! We can’t let our ministries take away from our relationship with God. Also, the Lord has been showing me that much of the ministry He wants us to be doing is outside the walls of our churches. If all our time is consumed by what we are doing in our churches, we don’t have much to spend out in the world sharing the love of Christ with the lost – who need Him the most.


    • Hi Megan, I don’t even know what to say but wow, that is exactly what God has been teaching me this year. That what is more important than serving within the church is serving outside of it. That has been such a struggle for me (and honestly so many of my friends that serve with me) and we are still trying to figure out how we can minister to others just as much outside of church as we do inside of it. I’m a big believer that our mission field is everywhere we go and all the people around us, but it’s kind of hard to minister to people when most of the ones you are around happen to be believers already. But I am praying that God will continue showing us the broken people around us that need to be ministered to so we don’t focus so much on helping those that are already saved and become blind to those who don’t even know Him. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Be blessed!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Amen Megan God has been saying the same thing to me. We become so involved and insular in the church that we don’t have time to touch the world with God’s love… We can also become so out of touch with the world that we don’t understand or have empathy for the world.


  7. Good post. I will say that there’s a fine line between “serving God” and “serving man”. I’ve seen it quite often and have actually been there myself. One preacher said it best in that “church work” and “the work of the Church” aren’t always the same…sometimes they’re gravely different. It’s important to be mindful of that. Thanks for sharing!


    • Thank you Crystal! There is definitely a fine line between serving God and serving man. You can serve man without serving God but you usually can’t serve God without serving man in the process. May we all be careful to differentiate between the two. Have a blessed night!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This was excellent and just what I needed to read today. I quit going to church as of January 1st of this year. This was an Episcopal church I grew up in and have attended most all my life, where I was confirmed, was married, where my children were baptized and confirmed, where I was reaffirmed. A church I love. I can’t even say WHY I quit going. I felt like I owed the priest (who I have a great deal of respect and admiration for) an explanation but I couldn’t even give her one because I didn’t know myself. Somehow saying, “I just needed a break from church” sounded wrong. And I knew it was more than that too. Sometimes I feel guilty that I’m not going to church on Sunday and no longer serving in that way,but on the other hand, I’ve never felt closer to God than I do right now. I’ve been studying His word, reading daily devotionals and praying more than I ever have in my life. I know I will go back at some point. There does need to be a happy balance there. I so need to find that balance. Blessings to you Anna. I so loved the message in this.


    • Hi Gail! I’m glad that you’ve been getting closer to God over the year. Spending time alone in His Word and with Him will always help us stay on track and encouraged by Him, but I also definitely think every believer should be walking out their faith with other fellow Christians so that they have people to encourage them, pray for them, and keep them accountable during all the low and high time’s in life. May God help you find that balance when you do return to church (and right now) as you continue growing in your walk with Him. Be blessed! 🙂


  9. “You need to be able to balance serving and being served”!!!
    Great point Anna…..as someone who loves serving I can identify with what you have written!
    We need to realise our effectiveness in ministry depends on how close we are to God! We can’t give out if we ourselves are empty! We are full when we like Mary sit at Jesus feet and and spend time with Him! I am not saying it’s easy but like you said there needs to be that balance! I don’t want to serve if I am doing it in my own strength! People’s hearts are convicted and changed by God and only when we spend time with Him will we be in a place to be used…..A great post Anna! 😃


    • Amen to everything you said Rolain! Serving is always great but it is most effective when it’s done because of our relationship with Christ not without it. The only way we can give to others is by being first filled up ourselves which requires daily time with God reading His Word and on our knees. If we are too busy in ministry to do that then we are missing the point of serving because we are no longer doing it from God but from our own efforts. And our own efforts will last only so long until we burn out just like driving a car on empty will last only so long before it completely stops. May we both continue to get filled up with Christ so we can serve others wholeheartedly and selflessly as He did. Have a blessed night!

      Liked by 1 person

      • As we get closer and closer to God we will see God move powerfully through us……more and more people will be touched and miracles can begin to happen. Only if like you said, we balance serving and being served!
        And as we become more effective other people are inspired to do the same!!!!
        Have a great day Anna….!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. This is so very true in my life months ago. When I got my blog up and running, I was writing 3-4 posts a day! I was researching, reading and writing to the point where my day was engulfed with my work. I thought I was doing the right thing, but I soon found out that I was wearing myself thin. I began to tread writing and researching the Bible. I began to dislike my writing ministry. Then one day, one of the nurses gave me some good advice. She simply said, “slow down.” At first, I wondered what she was talking about. Not me. I did not need to slow down. I had a writing ministry, and I needed to stay on top of the lessons I was writing. I needed to do my daily thoughts and my devotions and my lessons on the Gospel of John, and the lessons on Fear and Guilt. Do you get my drift? I slowed down. I took it easy. I am no longer pressuring myself to get the blog posts done by 7:30 p.m. When I get it done, I get it done without any deadlines.

    Thank you for reminding me that I am doing the right thing. Reading devotionals for me…not somebody else.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Pam! Oh I have been there before in both writing and church ministry. You know something is a little off when the thing that you were once so passionate starts becoming a burden instead of a blessing to you. I have always reminded myself with writing that I have no deadlines (especially because it’s a hobby, not a job) and that if I need to take a break from it then I should. I would rather take a few extra hours off during my week to reconnect and grow with Christ then to push myself to keep on giving to others when I feel empty myself. We all need to slow down once in a while (and not beat ourselves up for it) because it’s better to serve out of an abundance of Christ than out of our own efforts. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! May you continue to serve faithfully in your writing ministry as well as find the rest and renewal you need in Christ daily. Be blessed!


  11. “When we get so busy doing things FOR God that we forget to spend time WITH God.”

    I have just learned it is possible to sing and dance whilst sitting in a chair and making not a sound whilst reading a blog – and having my Lord chuckle over my shoulder!
    What a fantastically wonderful take it or leave prize crop of loving words!
    Wahoo almost does it. Biffo comes close. Thank you!!


  12. Great points, Anna. This is so important. Like you said, serving others is good and necessary, but we need to look at WHY we’re doing what we’re doing. Is it for affirmation? For promotion? Or maybe fear of what may happen if I don’t do a thing? (things will fall apart, etc.) Or any way I serve to manipulate or guilt others to serve? These fears are very subtle and hard to uncover if we aren’t asking ourselves these questions. And all these things were issues God had to deal with me as a pastor. I had to let go of so much fear and insecurity and actually serve out of love and trust. And that’s a scary thing! But when we step out of our boat we find Jesus’ welcoming hand to uphold us and free us.
    Thanks for the reference, btw. 🙂 Blessings to you.


    • Hi Mel, yes, it’s so important to question our reason for being involved in ministry. Even if our motives are good when we first began they can evolve into something different over the years and if left unchecked may be far from why God called us to serve in the first place. I have definitely dealt with my fair share of working out with God over the last few years my reason of serving and the fears and insecurities that come with it. It has been a bumpy ride but I think over the past few months God has been showing me that if I keep doing it for the reasons I first began, out of an overflow of love for Him and the desire to encourage and bless those around me then He’ll help me stay grounded in Him and not get sidetracked with doing it for the wrong reasons. Thanks for sharing your thoughts (and your post!). Have a blessed night!


  13. Anna!! Thanks so much for sharing. I was just reading that passage last evening and asking God how to choose the best thing! I am just getting involved in serving again and this was a timely word for me! Jesus first! Bless you and praying for your time with Jesus this week!


    • Hi Jeana! I love how God always confirms the things He speaks to our hearts in more than one way! I’m really happy that you are getting involved in ministry again! May you always put God first in all that you do, especially when it comes to serving others. Serving is so amazing when done out of an overflow of our relationship with Christ! 🙂


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