Oh, then, let us hear these arguments of Christ, whenever we feel ourselves grow dull and careless: “Did I die for these souls, and will not you look after them? Were they worth My blood, and are they not worth your labor? Did I come down from heaven to earth, ‘to seek and to save that which was lost;’ and will you not go to the next door, or street, or village, to seek them? How small is you condescension and labor compared to Mine! I debased Myself to this, but it is your honor to be so employed. Have I done and suffered so much for their salvation, and was I willing to make you a fellow-worker with Me, and will you refuse to do that little which lies upon your hands?”
Every time we look upon our congregations, let us believingly remember that they are the purchase of Christ’s blood, and therefore should be regarded by us with the deepest interest and the most tender affection.
Pastor…your toil and labor cannot root in your love for them or their love for you. It must root in your love for Christ, His love for you, and His love for them. He has purchased them with His blood. And you mean to present them to Him. It is for Him that you do it all.
When [the pastor] loses his sense of servanthood, at that same time he loses his spiritual power and usefulness. When he exalts himself and begins to work in his own human power and according to his own plans, he competes with God and forfeits his spiritual power. To lose dependence is to lose everything, because everything that is of any value in our lives, including power for effective service, comes only from the Lord. Among the greatest dangers to the ministry, and to all faithful Christian living, are things that in the world’s eyes are of supreme value – personal ambition, prestige, recognition, honor, reputation, and success.
What is professionalism? Professionalism is doing something because you’ve gotten good at it, good enough for people to pay you for it. It might not even feel that much like a job. But professionalism hollows out gospel ministry. Professionalized ministry flows out of a man’s own adequacy and gains for him a successful career. If you have a professional mentality, you will pray that God will bless your efforts. But if you have a biblical mentality, you will go beyond that. You will pray that God will do for you what only He can do, for the display of His glory alone.
It is only those who truly love Christ that are fitted to minister to His flock! The work is so laborious, the appreciation is often so small, the response so discouraging, the criticisms so harsh, the attacks of Satan so fierce, that only the “love of Christ” – His for us and ours for Him – can “constrain” to such work. “Hirelings” will feed the goats, but only those who love Christ can feed His sheep.
I’ve been there a few times in my life. Most don’t understand it. That’s understandable. However, it hit home to me when the Apostle Paul said, “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28). A number of years ago, the pain was so intense that the physical affliction Paul spoke about earlier in 2 Corinthians 11 would have been much preferred. I can take the long hours and the hard work. I can even take the pressures on my family. But the emotional pain is the one and only thing that forever tempts me to throw in the towel. When I feel that way, I can almost hear the Lord saying to me, “Are you in it for Me or are you in it for yourself?” That’s gut-check time. Am I really a servant of Christ (2 Cor. 11:23)?
Whirled from off our feet by a revival, carried aloft by popularity, exalted by success in soul-winning, we should be as the chaff which the wind driveth away, were it not that the gracious discipline of mercy breaks the ships of our vainglory with a strong east wind, and casts us shipwrecked, naked and forlorn, upon the Rock of Ages.
We should, of course, seek to continually improve our skills in leadership, personal discipline, time management, interpersonal relationships, and teaching. But above all these things, we should seek to increase our knowledge and enjoyment of Christ and deepen our love for Him (Phil. 3:8-14). After all, the deeper our love for Him the more we will become like Him in love and the more we will be able to teach others to love. There is, therefore, hardly anything better we can do for those we lead than to love the Lord Jesus Christ supremely and keep our love relationship with Him fresh and growing every day! Out of this blessed and holy love relationship will come a greater manifestation of God’s love in us, shining out to others and drawing them to Christ.
You see, the standards you set for yourself and your ministry are directly related to your view of God. If you are feeding your soul everyday on the grace and glory of God, if you are in worshipful awe of His wisdom and power, if you are spiritually stunned by His faithfulness and love, and if you are daily motivated by His presence and promises, then you want to do everything you can to capture and display that glory to the people God has placed in your care. It is your job as a pastor to pass this glory down to another generation, and it is impossible for you to do that if you are not being awestricken by God’s glory yourself.
Pastoral ministry is always shaped, formed, directed, and driven by worship. Your ministry will be shaped by worship of God or worship of you or, for most of us, a troubling mix of both. Perhaps there is no more powerful, seductive, and deceitful temptation in ministry than self-glory. Perhaps in ministry there is no more potent intoxicant than the praise of men, and there is no more dangerous form of drunkenness than to be drunk with your own glory. It has the power to reduce you to shocking self-righteousness and inapproachability.
Self-Glory by Paul David Tripp taken from Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp, copyright 2012, Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton Illinois 60187, www.crosswaybooks.org, p. 167.
Think about the insanity of…ministry idolatry. The people in your congregation did not become active participants in your ministry so that collectively they could make you feel better about yourself and more secure with your ministry gifts. God didn’t call you to your particular ministry position so that you could finally cobble together an identity that you could live with. The leadership of the church didn’t call you to be their pastor because they knew that you needed a forum where you could find meaning and purpose. The troubled people in your congregation did not come with their troubles so that you could feel needed, essential, and appreciated. The people who faithfully give don’t give so you can build a successful ministry and bask in the security of your accomplishments. So you will never find in your ministry the rest of heart that every human being seeks. And when you look there, it only ends in anxiety, frustration, hurt, disappointment, anger, and bitterness and may ultimately lead you to question the goodness of God… The only defense against this the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is only when we are living out of the life that grace alone is able to give that we quit seeking life elsewhere. It is only when we are embracing the rest of the forgiveness of grace that we can look at ourselves honestly and grieve without wallowing in debilitating guilt and shame.
The pastor must be enthralled by, in awe of – can I say it: in love with – his Redeemer so that everything he thinks, desires, chooses, decides, says, and does is propelled by love for Christ and the security of rest in the love of Christ. He must be regularly exposed, humbled, assured, and given rest by the grace of his Redeemer. His heart needs to be tenderized day after day by his communion with Christ so that he becomes a tender, loving, patient, forgiving, encouraging, and giving servant leader. His meditation on Christ – His presence, His promises, and His provisions – must not be overwhelmed by his meditation on how to make his ministry work.
More than Knowledge and Skill by Paul David Tripp taken from Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp, copyright 2012, Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton Illinois 60187, www.crosswaybooks.org, p. 63.