6 Doorways To Discouragement In Church Life

“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. malcolm Calder

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

  2. James Goodman

    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. Helen Calder Post author

    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. wildlittlefan

    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. Helen Calder Post author

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

  6. Amy

    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

  7. Helen Calder Post author

    Hi Amy – welcome to church life – the storms, difficulties and hurts come and go, almost like a cycle. For those of us who hang on through them, keeping our hearts right, staying clean of the negative effects of hurts – we are strengthened, purified, and eventually released into a greater measure of influence and ministry.
    Faithfulness through tough times to our leaders – in the church He has planted us – is a big test, one absolutely worth standing for.
    Hang in there, receive His comfort and be richly blessed, Amy.

  8. arend

    Excellent stuff.

    There are lots of changes in our church, I am prohetically inclined , church is not going “how I thought it would go”. and to be honest deep down in my heart was getting rather disappointed with it.. Now I’ll read and reread this blog and trust that God has my life in giftings in control,and if I am meant to be there I’ll stay and fullfill what I am supposed to do with a good attitude. Good post!

  9. Helen Calder Post author

    Hi Arend, great to hear from you.
    I have been where you are many times, it is worth holding on in the church Father has planted us.
    I pray that you will be encouraged and strengthened in your prophetic and church journey – I’m glad the article has been helpful to you.

  10. Sharon

    Hi Helen! Thank you for this. What I’m going through is slightly different from what you’re describing (it’s almost an exact replication of my experience 2 years ago — different church, different people, different city, same discouragements… sigh) but your final point is relevant. I’ve carried the pain around for weeks but this morning before I read your post I could feel something had broken. I had more clarity about everything, could see that everyone involved is human and doing the best that they can. I have chosen throughout this time to refuse bitterness anyway, but I was feeling sad and hurt (which was less a choice, I think, than a natural response). Like a wound in the natural, I think its healing just took time to process. I’m so thankful that I’m a lot healthier now than I used to be and that when I do get hurt, the wounds don’t have a chance to get “infected”!

    I then came to work and read this post. I believe it confirms that God is actively working in my life and He brings about what I need in His perfect time. I have a lot more going on right now than just church issues! Thanks again, hope you’re having a great week :o)

    1. Helen Calder Post author

      Hi Sharon, great to hear from you!
      Yes, you are so right, healing is a process – and when we cooperate with God’s healing power in the way you have described, we come through stronger. I pray that you continue to grow and experience His rich blessing on your personal and church life.

  11. Chontae

    Hi Helen,

    Happy New Year Friend…..I had searched your site looking for this article so glad I did.

    I’ve really needed this and will keep reading over it to allow it to sink further.

    Our church has gone through 3 major blows in the last 18 months and the last one brought alot of hurt, suffering and division.

    Thank you for this word Helen. Have needed it so much.

    Bless you my friend
    Chontae

  12. erica

    I was doing so good in God – it was like I never had any hurt or baggage at all – I was strong in him, so we have a new leadership transition, it’s the one couple I didn’t want, but lost in the vote – now my mind is back to 20 years ago – all the stuff that used to attack me – I’m still going with a good attitude, but so resentful deep down inside – any comments to help? Because I’m not finding it within my own flock

  13. Shirley G.

    Helen, you don’t know how much your blog was needed here. We have been going through a tough time with our church, which is for sale. We are just waiting on the Lord to see what he wants us to do next. A lot of people have left for various other churches. It is a large facility, and with the number of members it is difficult to keep up with the bills. The building is over 30 years old, and maintaining such a large facility is expensive. Please pray for strength, wisdom and encouragement.

    1. Helen Calder Post author

      Hi Shirley, yes I do pray for you and your church – extra grace needed (and available from God) during times like this.
      May the leadership team have great wisdom in making decisions and continued vision from the Holy Spirit to move forward.
      And for you too…comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit, His plans are good.

  14. Beverley williams

    Hi, thankyou for explaining about discouragement, In my life I can identify that this has occurred to me in so many situations over the last 35-40 years – my whole life!!! the holy spirit has continued to bring comfort and reassurance – as I have been diligent to receive by faith and trust the lord wholeheartedly despite the outward circumstances occuring in my family and my life!!! – I am so grateful helen!!! my life will never be the same!!!

  15. samuel mike

    Sir, you are truly from heaven and God sent to me. Sir almost everything you said sunk in my spirit and this is one of the signs i get from God when he truly sends some one to me. Sir, my name is Samuel nwokocha from Nigeria and also a nigerian. I was on campus while still a student in one of the universities in Nigeria in 2012 when God told me about his plans for me before he created me. He told me about starting a ministry, but he never gave me the go ahead to start until 2016 may. Lots of prophecies concerning the vision of God came to me as a confirmation to what God had earlier told me. Sir, i faced a lot, not just external, but also internal tests and lots of times i cried so much unto God asking him if i had offended him, he should forgive me and since my heart desire was to make him happy always just like Enoch did, why would all these things happen to me. Sir, i needed someone like a spiritual father who could hold my hand and lead me, but those that i met were not for me as there was still no peace inside me when they spoke, some saw me as a competitor and were just feigning, but sir, as you spoke it sunk in my spirit and joy welled up in me. I started the vision this year Jan 2017 and God has brought 3 persons that he ordained to join me. Sir, i humbly ask that you be My SPIRITUAL FATHER, MENTOR. There was a strong connection when i read your words on this page and i knew that God sent you to me. PLEASE SIR. HUMBLY GRANT MY REQUEST AND ALSO PRAY FOR ME. MY NAME IS SAMUEL MIKE .I. NWOKOCHA, FROM NIGERIA. I WILL BE 32 THIS YEAR JUNE. sir, my email id is [email protected]. I will be truly grateful to hear from you sir especially directly with my email address. Thank u sir. God richly bless you in Jesus name

  16. Walter Mills

    I have been having an extremely long and very hard struggle for the past 3 or 4 years. The church that I attend collapsed, and the majority of the members left. During the collapse we had meetings about how to deal with it and what to do. The council wanted to and had a motion to close down the church and lock the doors. I thought this was a slap in the face to God and wondered how anyone could even put forth such an option as this without first asking God. I openly said we should stop everything we are doing as a church and come to God as a congregation and ask Him to show us what He wants us to do. I was accused of being the reason for all the problems of the church, such as leaders resigning, no one willing to fill the empty position, committees ceasing to function, ongoing confusion in council, strife and bitterness between church members, and was told that the sooner I left the church the better the church would be. I wanted to leave the church too and so petitioned God about it and He said to stay put. As time went on He told me to “come home and rest” and “those that want to be leaders, let them lead”. Many times I would come into the church and sit in a pew and would be gripped by extreme sadness and so I wept and prayed for the church. I needed to have some kind of anchor in all this so I remembered past instances when God came very close to me. One such time was when I was doing the congregational prayer and I said a sentence, and then I could see an angel of God pumping his arm in exultation and saying “yes we did it, you said what God wanted to hear” and my spirit went and rejoiced with Him. I have read quite a few of your posts today and will read more. I think I will finally be able to understand why I was ripped apart like I was and hopefully be able to get back the happiness that was stolen .

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