I No Longer Care About The Things That Used to Motivate Me
I confess to you that when I first entered the ministry, I wanted the large congregation, lectureship and workshop speaking appointments, radio and television exposure, and the prestige that I assumed accompanied such. To be honest, I wanted to “increase.” If I had to guess, I’d suppose that a lot of ministers would never wish to confess that they want the same, but some do. Some of us have wanted to be the superstar preachers that we even sometimes may criticize—i.e., Joel Osteen. We scarcely would care to suffer hunger or thirst as did Paul, or homelessness as did our own Savior who professed that he had nowhere to lay His head. Here’s what a bit ironic: I now minister at a large congregation where my sermons are live-broadcast to a radio audience and are even video recorded and on Youtube. I have spoken at a few, not many, lectureships and workshops, but none of these things move me. I could certainly do without all of them, but because they exist, I wish instead to use them to exalt Christ rather than increase myself.
“Whosoever wishes to be exalted shall be humbled,” said the Lord. God has indeed humbled me, and I only hope that I don’t elevate myself anymore as I wished to do. Ministry burnout and conflict brought me to the point of not caring about any of those things. I actually at one point tried to exit ministry, but the Lord prevented me from doing so. Therefore, the things that I used to crave, even covet, were not matters of interest. It’s sort of humorous to me how it seems as if once I stopped caring about them, God thought I was ready for them. This revelation has been life-changing.
During my season of conflict and burnout, Jeremiah became my close ally. I read of his exploits and mistreatment at the hand of Israel’s religious leaders, and I felt in good company. I went from being an ambitious minister seeking limelight to one who sought only God. I wish, however, that I was a pious as I might make this all sound, but the truth is I’m not. I identify as a struggling human seeking God and helping other struggling humans to find Him. So what’s the point of all of this?
I would caution every minister to really evaluate why they do what they do and for whom. I won’t question anyone’s heart because God only knows it, but some ministers are good at feigning piety and humility. As a recovering manipulator of people, I see through it. I had come to the realization that it would be necessary to impose self humbling restrictions on myself to protect myself from temptation. I have purposefully turned down speaking appointments to avoid the attention that may be directed at my own abilities. I have also kept more to myself rather than networked among other ministers not because I’m stuck up or think I’m better than anyone, but because speaking invitations usually follow such networking. Even still with the trappings of the larger congregation and other things I once sought, I invest in people because ministering to those who face difficulties cultivates gratitude on my part for what I have and am not facing.
I wish to adopt to myself and the ministry God has gifted me the mindset of two passages that mean so very much to me:
He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)
But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)