We in the clergy can often find ourselves in a struggle for significance. We simply seem to be God’s middlemen, His pawns. It seems that ministry can at times diminish one’s effectiveness … at least in our own eyes. But a thread runs through Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, that says, once a person finds his or her place in society, there will be eternal impact. In other words, we will make a difference for God’s glory.
I have attempted to analyze — from the notes I have received from pastors and from my own perspective — why we sometimes feel insignificant. As a result, I share the following unscientific conclusions about those of us who serve:
- We unfairly compare ourselves to others whose ministries seem more effective.
- We are battling against the power bases in our organizations, which don’t accept our dreams.
- We are worn out from stressful ministry. When we find ourselves in that condition, everything looks dim.
- We may have forgotten that the church we serve is God’s church and our people are really His people.
- It might just be that we are finding our source of encouragement in the praise of people rather than in the Lord through His Word and private worship.
- There could be conflict in our own families that complicates our lives. Unless we resolve those issues, we will always be in the negative.
Self-pity is a lousy prison, and if we ever think God doesn’t care, doesn’t know our situation, or may have mistaken our assignment, we will be less than content! Give yourself a few minutes to pout, and then move on!
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
And don’t ever forget that you do what you do because He called you. (By the way, if you do not feel personally called to the Christian ministry, you are probably wasting your time and will never be fulfilled until you do find the niche He has for you. And there most definitely is one.)
Consider these scriptures about what we do: “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21) and “I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible” (1 Corinthians 9:19).
In other words, God uses a wide variety of clergy to see His will fulfilled. Most pastors will never have a radio or television ministry. You may never become well-known outside of your circle of influence, but it is within that circle of influence that God allows you great authority and unique opportunity. No one else can do what you do or serve where you serve. You are uniquely in the right spot to bring glory to God.
So, if your people comment on something one of the “big names” has said, or wonders aloud, “Why don’t you do it the way they do it?” don’t get upset. Just know in your heart that God has you where He wants you, and because of that, God expects a harvest of love and compassion for those you serve.
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:17-18).
Ready? I have a suggestion for you that might appear controversial: Be yourself! I see so many colleagues who have pretty much given up on their uniqueness. They have become like clones — almost afraid to venture out and be unique in their own assignment. That may be an overstatement, but I do talk to many who live in so much fear of failure that they never reach their potential.
Here’s the second part of my suggestion: Dare to dream an impossible dream for your ministry. Go beyond your reach. Invest in an original thought each day. Ask God for a challenge. Be around people who stimulate you to newness rather than people who drag you down. Don’t have heroes — be a hero. Live a life that others will view as anointed.
Remember the scripture often used in “life-issue” sermons: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). That refers to you, my colleague. God had you in mind before you even took a breath, and His intention was that, because you were created uniquely, you would live uniquely — different from any other human being, especially any other pastor. It’s fine to admire another’s uniqueness, but please do not neglect your own. You are wonderful! You are an original!
“Now the body is not made up of one part, but of many. … In fact, God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (1 Corinthians 12:14, 18).