If you commit to handling the “too hard” cases well, there will be some benefits.

1) Your “too hard” box will shrink.

I’m not saying you’ll have fewer difficult cases. You’ll probably have the privilege of working with more difficult cases. What I mean is that there will be fewer and fewer problems which are too hard for you. As you work through difficult situations, you will find yourself more and more skillful at helping people and at referring people where necessary.

2) You will find that you are able to actually help people in incredibly difficult situations.

As a minister, we can easily say some spiritual words and offer to pray. But such words ring hollow in our hearts when they echo in our souls as “be warmed and filled…” When we go into the trenches with those who struggle and live out the gospel knee-deep in the mud, blood, and chaos of the battlefield, we can lay our head down at night knowing we’ve done what we are here to do.

3) Your theology will become more robust.

The process of helping will sharpen your theology. Sometimes even demolish it. And that’s good. As your theology is hammered on the anvil of lived-out Bible study, not only will it become more robust, it will also become more mainstream. Reasonable people will be attracted to your ministry because your idiosyncrasies will have been diminished in the fire of humble helping.

4) Your ministry will look like Christ’s.

Mercy toward the weak. Opposition toward the oppressor. This stuff will start to happen in your ministry. Automatically.

5) You will avoid a trail of broken lives scattered in the wake of your ministry.

Use them up. Spit them out. A trail of broken lives in the rear-view mirror. It’s a common model in some corners of Christianity.

You’ll find fewer casualties of your depravity as you learn to humbly help those you can and humbly refer those you can’t.

6) You will save your own soul.

It has been my observation that destructive, abusive pastors don’t start out that way. They start out with noble intentions and admirable ideals, but ministry changes them. Ideals are shattered against the jagged edges of ministerial reality and scars are born of disappointment and insult until the callous is formed and practice reformed.

In short, if you let yourself do the easy thing; if you let yourself pull the power-card; if you let yourself become a professional; you will become something ugly. But if you keep yourself under the heat of focused accountability; if you humble yourself enough to say “I don’t know;” if you discipline your heart to love quickly and condemn slowly; your life will become a sweet aroma of gospel grace to those who need grace most.

Brethren, my prayer to God for you as I write these words is that you will resolve to become the sort of person who is safe to come to with problems. Difficult problems. Not because you’re an expert in everything, but because you are quick to love and slow to condemn; because you are humble, grace-saturated, tenacious.

Grace to you.


this is part 4 of 4 in the series
Helping people in the too hard box

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About Jason Harris

Dr Jason Harris is a writer, pastor, and academic. He has authored multiple books, articles, and papers including his book Theological Meditations on the Gospel. Jason has a PhD from James Cook University as well as degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research. Jason has lived in Cairns, Australia since 2007 and serves as pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at jason@jasonharris.com.au.

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