Every vocation has its ups and downs; pros and cons. Pastoral ministry has more than its fair share. Here we are 2000 years after Christ’s death and resurrection, yet I’m not sure the Church in the Western World looks anything like it did in that first century. I’m not saying that it’s right or wrong just radically different.
As I read through the New Testament, I can’t stop myself from meditating on how we do things today. As a pastor, there are three things that scare me about 21st-century ministry.
Not Being Successful
Failure is a frightening thing, but not being successful is even more frightening. If there are extremes on either side, then there are those of us who are average. We preach average sermons and baptize an average number of people each year. We lead average Bible studies and record average attendance in our annual reports.
We live in a culture that celebrates big, shiny, and grandiose, not average. Those of us who are average at what we do have to get real good at trusting Jesus. We have to trust that our faithfulness is acceptable. But our culture doesn’t applaud faithfulness. Therefore, when we are sitting with our peers and begin to feel that we don’t measure up, we need to know that we know God applauds our faithfulness and obedience.
I would like to tell you that I have mastered this, but I haven’t. And some days it scares me that I am not successful the way the world measures it. But I’m getting better at trusting Jesus.
Not being successful scares me when I am with my peers. However, being successful scares me when I am in the trenches of ministry. It is so easy to let success get to your head and harden your heart. Success in ministry frightens me because I have seen so many fall from their golden, man-made pedestals.
Every success we achieve in ministry tempts us to wade in its glory. We have to be careful to give that glory back to God and keep our souls humble. Someone once said we are never as great as some people think and never as terrible as others want us to believe. The trenches of ministry help us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. For He alone is the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Never Realizing Potential in Christ
Yet, the thing that scares me most about ministry is never realizing my potential in Christ. We can find ourselves paralyzed between being successful and not being successful. We can struggle to find the balance to such an extent that we never realize our potential in Christ. My greatest fear is that fear itself will keep me from being the minister Christ has created me to be.
There must come a time in ministry when we no longer focus on success…whether we have it or don’t have it. Instead, we focus on becoming the minister Christ desires us to be. We must devote our energy to realizing our potential in Christ so that we can be His hands and feet in this world. And when we realize our potential in Christ, then we will be reflecting the New Testament Church as it should be.