Sometimes I still doubt God’s call on my life. At other times that call is more certain than my own existence. Why would God use an awkward introvert like me? Because it’s just like God to tell the story through the weak. After a decade of experiencing victory, defeat, depression, joy, and much grace; I am humbled to reflect on God’s faithfulness. What would I put forward as worthy of consideration after ten years?
1. You are not your gift
Particularly for those in ministry, there is always a temptation to feel that your value, worthiness, and identity are rooted in your performance. As we minister, our perceived success is the gauge of our faithfulness and our accolades become the strength to carry on. The underlying notion is that we are our gifts. In reality, we are sinners saved by grace and equipped with gifts to serve the kingdom. Our identity is in Christ, our value comes from the Creator, and our worthiness is only in his imputed righteousness. Rest in the paradox of a kingdom where you are called and gifted to do what you are utterly incapable of doing. In other words, you are not your gift.
2. Balance is essential
There are pros and cons to almost everything. For the sake of this point, lets assume that the bedrock of doctrine is not a part of this thought process. This is not a call to compromise our convictions, but to understand that rigidity in preferences is unwise. If we demand faithfulness to convictions, we are insisting things be done God’s way. If we demand faithfulness to preferences, we insist that things be done our way. Instead, we should let our convictions shape our preferences. Our biblical convictions should provide the boundaries of any of our practices, but within those boundaries there should be liberty. In so doing we can achieve balance without compromise. Actually, we can more faithfully serve Christ without selfishness, with diversity, and through grace.
3. Community is not optional
Isolationism can be easily rationalized; however, it is not easily lived. As an introvert, it is particularly difficult to allow people into my personal life. There are times when I feel as if a literal seal has been placed over the reservoir of my emotions. Many people can likely relate to that feeling. In ministry there is a temptation to go it alone and often a preconceived notion that you are actually in it alone. Biblically, this simply will not suffice. The call to ministry is a call to community: partnership in the Gospel.
4. You are in continuous desperate need of the Gospel
The Gospel is not stale or stagnant—it is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe. We need to be continuously reminded of, amazed at, surrendered to, and broken by this good news. It must not be assumed. We are not called merely to revel in the power of the Gospel’s application to others, but also to delight in the saving power of the crucified Son in our own lives. When we neglect our own need of the Gospel, we will inevitably veer off track in most areas of ministry and life. The connection is undeniable, though perhaps not always apparent.
5. Make God the focus
The typical minister has a default assumption that they are “God-focused” in their practices. That assumption is just untrue. We can easily shift from God-focused to program-focused, career-focused, business-focused, or numbers-focused mindsets. This shift can manifest itself in our preaching, teaching, meetings, or overall vision, and we are usually the last to recognize it. Living in community with others will help you recognize and repent of such shifts. Meditation on the glorious Gospel can help you avoid the subtle compromises that lead you astray.
Furthermore, the sermon itself can drift from theocentric to a plentitude of other emphases. Psychology, philosophy, morality, and culture (or pop-culture) displaces God as the focal point of the pulpit in the name of relevance. I assure you that nothing is more relevant than God himself as revealed in his word. Let the theme of your ministry be the one who has given you this ministry in His great mercy.
6. Be genuine
The heart is deceitful. We are all prone to dual identities in which we put our best face forward and try to bury our prodigal. At times this masquerade can be maddening, but if we could bring ourselves into reality through confession, we might just find that grace shines through our weakness.
At Sunday worship, as in every dimension of our existence, many of us pretend to believe we are sinners. Consequently, all we can do is pretend we have been forgiven. As a result, our whole spiritual life is pseudo-repentance and pseudo-bliss.-Brennan Manning
A consistent life of genuine confession and repentance would do much to quell the accusations of hypocrisy against the church and those in church leadership. More importantly, God desires offerings that stem from a broken and contrite heart.
I am not only amazed at God’s faithfulness, but also at his grace. His righteousness has been sufficient to cover the multitude of my sins and proclivities. A decade seems like a long time upon initial reflection; however, ten thousand years won’t be enough to sing his praise for the grace contained therein. God is still working on me and these points are merely a random assortment of trial by fire lessons. What are your own random lessons learned?