“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov 4:23).

When we are discouraged, we lose heart. Our courage fails, our passion is cooled, we lose inner motivation and we feel pain.

Potentially discouraging events, words, trials and disappointments happen regularly in church life.
In times of change and transition the likelihood of these things occurring increases.

The Danger of Discouragement in Church Life

There are two major reasons why the enemy will foster discouragement within churches.

1. Disheartened people do the enemy’s work of criticism and accusation.

If discouragement becomes lodged in our hearts, it will find expression in our mouths. Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt 12:34).

When discouraged, we are easily tempted to become critical and judgmental, especially if the source of discouragement is another person or church leader.

2. Discouragement robs people of motivation—and unmotivated people will not do God’s work.

A good illustration of this is found in the book of Ezra. When the exiles began to rebuild the temple of God, it says that, “the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building.” (Ezra 4:4).

Doorways To Discouragement During Change In Church Life

Here are 6 entry points of discouragement in changing church life, along with tips on how to navigate through them:

1. Disappointment

During times of transition, changes are made in the vision, structure or culture of a local church.

When changes do not resemble our preconceived idea of how God is going to accomplish His purposes, we may become disappointed.

Disappointment can relate to unfulfilled vision. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” as Proverbs 13:12 says.

Prophetic people can be very vulnerable to this as we carry dreams and visions for our own lives and our church.

Disappointments may also relate to our own desire for ministry in the local church. During restructure we may be set aside from our role, or another person may be promoted in the ministry before us.

SURVIVAL TIP: At times like this, we must never lose sight of the fact that God Himself is watching over our lives and our calling, and that as surely as He has promised, He will bring it to pass as we keep our hearts right—in His time.

2. Hurts

During times of change in church life, relationship hurts can arise very quickly. If we do not fully understand or appreciate changes being made, we may experience pain or offense.

Hurt can also be personal, for example, someone may hurt us through inconsiderate words or actions, even unintentionally.

The closer that person is to us, or the more authority a person carries, or the greater a position of trust, the deeper the wound can be.

Sometimes, the unsaid brings pain. Thankyous that are due but not given, or encouragement that is withheld, can also lead to discouragement.

SURVIVAL TIP: It is important to deal with hurts as they occur, or as soon as possible afterwards. Apply honesty, transparency, forgiveness and grace.

3. Loss

Change brings loss and loss brings grieving. This can be the loss of a ministry, a loss of familiar support structures or even the familiarity of the culture of church life.

Sometimes loss may be related directly to growth. For example, a pastor of over 200 people cannot give each congregational member the same amount of attention as when the congregation consisted of 60 people. A relational loss is felt.

If close friends leave the local church, we naturally go through a time of grieving.

SURVIVAL TIP: It is important to acknowledge grief and to bring it out into the open. Our grief needs be validated and expressed so that we can release it in a healthy manner and move on.

4. Mistakes

Change can be turbulent. Human error or misjudgement is more likely to take place during times of transition in the church.

Imperfect, human leaders cannot be expected to lead perfectly at all times. These are the times when we most need to extend grace to one another and to our leaders.

SURVIVAL TIP: When we have concerns about the way changes have been led in our church, it is a fresh opportunity to place our trust in God. The Bible sets a clear precedent that in spite of real or perceived mismanagement of human leaders, God is sovereign and His purpose for our lives, the community and the church will ultimately be accomplished.

5. Second-Hand Discouragement

Discouragement is catching. Someone else’s discouragement, vocalised, can be easily passed on to us.

The saying, ‘a burden shared is a burden halved’ is a lie when that burden is an offence in the church.

SURVIVAL TIP: Resist taking on another person’s discouragement. Another person’s offence is a burden you were never meant to carry. Once you take it on, it is difficult to remove.

6. Trials

Trials happen; mistakes are made; structures erected to fulfil visions and dreams sometimes fail; dry seasons occur; bad things happen to good people—and the local church is no exception.

During transition, such difficulties are inevitable.

Trials are allowed by God, and come “so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7).

SURVIVAL TIP: Remember that trials not only strengthen our faith, they are also part of God’s learning process for the church and for us as individuals.

Dismiss Discouragement!

There will always be reasons for hurt and discouragement in a growing, dynamic church. But I have learned that discouragement is an enemy to be shunned—with vigilance.

However, discouragement can also be helpful: it can be like an orange flashing light, indicating that there is something in our lives that needs attending to.

Our God is the source of encouragement and hope. The Kingdom of God, the scripture says, consists of “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17).

The atmosphere of God’s Kingdom and that of discouragement cannot coexist. We have the power to choose which one we embrace.


Notes:

Have you been discouraged in church life? Or would you like to know more about the antidote to discouragement and division in the church? This article, along with the above cartoon, is an excerpt from my book, ‘Prophetic People In A Changing Church.’

You can find out more about it on the Enliven Blog e-books page.


Related Posts:

Why Is My Spiritual Gift Or Ministry Not Being Released?

Break Free Of Hurts That Are Blocking Your Spiritual Gift

Set Yourself Free From Judging Others

Going Through A Testing Season In Your Spiritual Gifts


Have you experienced and overcome discouragement in church life? Share your own survival tips by leaving a comment on the comments box. If the comments box is not visible, click on this link and scroll down.


© Helen Calder Enliven Blog – Prophetic Teaching

On team with David McCracken Ministries: Prophetic Ministry That Empowers The Church

Did you receive this from a friend? Read more from Enliven Blog or sign to receive our weekly prophetic teaching updates at https://www.enlivenpublishing.com/blog

18 thoughts on “6 Doorways To Discouragement In Church Life”

  1. Wow, Helen, this is sooo relevant!!! It is such a tangible issue. Great writing and very encouraging!!

  2. Hi Helen – once again this is so timely and hits the mark. Thank you so much for sharing this. In particular your observation about church growth and change causing problems of disconnectedness is spot on to our situation here. Because of this I have found that we need to invest more in support and pastoral care at the level of the home group as it is not possible for the central leadership to be on top of every issue. Added to this challenge is that we have folks who are no longer a part of any church (who’ve been hurt and discouraged just as you describe) who now wish to be a part of that group.

    As you say, sometimes people’s pastoral expectations of the minister are too much in a church that has a growing membership. Indeed, the disappointment is sometimes compounded because there’s an unspoken (and unrealistic) belief that the minister has all the Holy Spirit leadership gifts of Eph 4:11, when in fact ‘pastor’ may not be their primary gifting.

    I am so blessed to have found your blog! Will share this article with our leadership team and our (at times!) discouraged prophetic people.

    May God bless you richly

    James

  3. Hi James,
    Great insight about people’s expectations on a pastor/church minister to have all the 5-fold gifts!

    And how true it is that discouragement can actually result from healthy church growth – it is human nature (for most of us, anyway) to feel discomforted by change, and growth has a clear impact on relationships.

    I have navigated this from both a congregational member’s perspective and a staff member’s perspective.
    To deny or ignore these effects of change is not helpful (I’ve seen this have a lash-back effect).

    Acknowledging people’s feelings, providing the pastoral care as you mention, the small group formation and care, providing teaching both on the reasons for change and how to deal with discouragement and hurts, being aware of the effect of fast-paced change, perhaps slowing down at times to allow people to take ownership…

    Just had a thought – Jesus spent a lot of time telling the disciples of the changes up ahead, preparing them for the future, teaching and training them knowledge and skills they would need way beyond His time with them.

    it’s worth praying for guidance of specific ways to navigate the ‘white water rapids’ of change.

    My prayer is that this article will help many.
    May you be richly blessed in your journey as a church!

  4. Helen,
    I think your article has shown us that the negative but realistic side of what people will always experienced in church life. As long as church are formed by people, there will always be problems like that happen in the church on earth. And the enemies surely knows how to use all kinds of human weakness and personalities to attack on God’s people. I think we need to deal with the problem not just on spiritual issue but also needs to deal with some really trouble makers once awhile. For sure church is a place of love but sometimes, we need wisdom from heaven to really deal with the problems when the problems has been there for a long time. forgiveness among each others , less gossips and accusation , and more love action will always be helpful to build up a healthy church. Thia is my opinion. God bless you.

  5. Yes, there will be times when ‘tough love’ is needed – by loving and wise leadership 🙂

  6. Mrs. Calder..

    All I can say is My God ! My God! My God! … My spirit just synced with this message. As I say all the time, you are so in tune to my church. We are experiencing this at this very moment…. The should I go, should I stay thoughts.
    This is my first experience with church hurt, and church hurt hurts. I trust God is all things though. I thank you for your spirit filled words of teaching and wisdom…

    God bless you and the Hunk

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