FORT WORTH—Standing before a diverse group of students at one of the largest seminaries in the world, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Director Nathan Lorick on Tuesday emphatically delivered a message he admitted might not sound like good news.
The message? “Ministry is hard.”
“I can promise that you will go through season after season after season of difficulty and challenge,” said Lorick, preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s weekly chapel service. “But it is good news, because in the face of trials and the face of adversity and the face of uncertainty, God’s Spirit empowers you daily to walk through those things. And when you are looking at an uncertain future, you can hold on to the promise that God is in your tomorrow already waiting on you when you get there.”
In those difficult seasons, Lorick cautioned students to remember that their true calling from God will sometimes be the only thing that sustains them in their ministries. He likened such challenging times to those recounted by Paul in Acts 20, highlighting from the text the character that made Paul a great leader.
Acts 20 provides a historical account of Paul’s farewell message to the elders of the Ephesian church. In the passage, Paul describes how he served the Ephesians “with all humility, with tears” (v.19) while enduring hardships that included the Jews constantly plotting against him. Despite those trials, Paul reminds the elders he never stopped proclaiming the truth of the gospel and that he will continue to proclaim it as he prepares to head to Jerusalem where “chains and affliction are waiting for me” (v.23).
In the passage, Lorick said, Paul demonstrated himself to be a leader who was not afraid to be authentic and honest about his brokenness (v.18); whose convictions did not change through difficult circumstances (v.20); who was resolved to advance the mission even in times of uncertainty (v.22-23); and who stayed focused on the things that mattered most (v.24). Lorick implored the students to adopt Paul’s leadership character and reject the tendency of some who define ministry success by measures that may not necessarily benefit the kingdom of God.
“I can’t promise success in the way that [it is measured] today,” Lorick said, “but what I can promise is that, in the calling of your ministry, there will be challenges, there will be afflictions, there will be hardships—and you have to have the resolve and calling of God. … There will be times in your ministry when the only thing you have to go to is that calling you have from God. There will be times when books won’t help, friends will try to encourage you, but you will be so perplexed about the situation and the uncertainty that the only thing you will have is to get on your knees and say, ‘God, I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know you called me to go into tomorrow in this calling.’”
During chapel, and at a luncheon held to honor SWBTS faculty and staff afterward, Lorick marveled at the thousands of men and women the seminary has trained and sent out into missions fields all over the world and thanked them for their dedication and service.