The ministry is a very dangerous field…but not because of persecution or hatred from non-believers. The truth is that it’s dangerous because many of us aren’t aware of why were are in the ministry…and therein is the danger…because some of us THINK that we went into it because we felt a supernatural call from God that we were hand-picked to go and preach the truth to the masses…and that is far from the truth…at least for it was for me…
Before going any further, let me be clear in saying that I do believe that many of our preachers and leaders have been given a divine gift as well as a supernatural call…but not all of us…and that’s where the problem comes in.
Having said that, let me tell you a little about my experience…and I don’t think my experience is foreign to others. I was about 22 when I became a believer in Christ. I was so excited and so passionate about my newly found faith that I wanted others to know about it as well. It also needs to be said that I’ve always struggled with insecurity, and therefore with egotism. The two go hand-in-hand. Any time you meet someone that is extremely egotistical, you will generally find them to be extremely insecure as well. When I became a believer, I wish I could tell you that my insecurity and egotism were changed but unfortunately that’s not how it works (at least it didn’t in my case). Not long after becoming a believer, with all of my passion and egotism in the mix…I believed I was supposed to be a preacher. It made sense to me and it seemed to make sense to others due to my drive to speak to people about what had happened to me.
Some time later, I applied to a small Bible college in the area and was accepted and was to start classes in January of 2000. I began classes that first week and it was such a culture shock…and in many ways a very positive experience…but in some ways, it was a very dysfunctional one as well. The first Friday of every quarter was when the “Freshmen” class gave their testimonies in the chapel service. The faculty emphasized the importance of our brevity, but that didn’t always matter to us. Time after time, what I remember hearing the most was how God had “told” these individuals something like if they didn’t respond to His call to preach, then the world would not hear the Gospel. Time after time, I began to pick up on the reality that it seemed like we believed that God “needed” us to get out into the field and save the world. I heard over and over again how God had seemingly chased these men down, making them miserable…having others tell them that they were supposed to preach…a situation much like a college basketball coach trying desperately to recruit the best high school starting point guard in the nation.
I remember feeling very out of place in this group…because I didn’t have that story. Truth be told, I wanted to preach. I never ran from it…never shied away from it…never hesitated. I wanted to stand in front of the crowds…get all of the attention…the pats on the back…the “well done” handshakes. I wanted the title, “Reverend” (a title which I now detest). I wanted desperately to see my name on the sign, and to have my name well known to the community…and hopefully the world. Since I didn’t have the experience of “running” from the Lord, I felt like I wasn’t really “called” because everyone else ran from Him…so I only had one option to accomplish my goal. I had to tell everyone that I didn’t really want to do this…that God had chased me down…in order to use my “incredible gift.” I’ve since learned that there is no difference in these two types of testimony…because both have to do with being centered on us as opposed to Him…it just sounds more acceptable to people that God wanted us to do it and we didn’t want to because like Moses, we were so humble.
(Some people really do run out of a sense of inadequacy, so don’t hear me putting all of us in the same category.)
The irony of all of this is that I really did have good intentions regarding the Gospel during all of this. I just really struggled with my egotistical, insecure, sinful nature during all of this as well. I believe I could say the same for many of my schoolmates as well. Many of them were exaggerating the experience of their “call” so as to call attention to themselves and gain some level of dramatic importance. They may have done this due to an unawareness of insecurity and egotism…but they also truly loved the Lord and His Message.
I recently pondered on the temptation of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. It says that the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness and during that time He suffered great temptations. I believe that this was a very difficult and maybe painful experience for Him. After it was over, it says He came back from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit. Something interesting occurred to me…a truth that A.W. Tozer once said. It goes something like this: “God never uses anyone greatly until He tests them deeply.”
This is very foreign to us in reality…because we don’t want to go through the testing before going in power. We simply want the power, fame, and prestige…essentially, we want everything that satan offered Jesus in the wilderness. I want the things that tickle my ego and not the things that subdue it.
A few years ago, I had a moment of truth with God…a moment in which I confessed to Him that I was in this for the wrong reasons. Then I told Him I didn’t think He ever really called me to the ministry. He comforted me with the truth that while that may be the case, He could now actually work with me…whereas when I was in it for me…He could or would not.
It was a liberating day to find out that God didn’t need me…and it is a joyous thing to know that even though I’ve been a total mess…He can and will use me anyway…and that humbling moment has truly helped cure my sinfully stained ego a little more.
I’m a mess, but I can’t mess up what He wants to do.
*Image taken from http://www.rbouellette.com/