Are we too good?

Deuteronomy 9:1-5
There was one guiding question I had before I became a pastor. As I was learning what that role meant to the church, I began to realize it was more than I thought. It isn’t the ultimate in Christian service, as many people seem to believe. But it is important.

As a pastor, people allow you to have an influence on their walk with God. That’s not lost on me. I keep a few cards I’ve received over the years. Handwritten, they say, “You’ve helped me want to be a better Christian.” There is nothing more humbling to me now to read.

Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have understood it. Or I would have taken it for granted. That’s also the kind of feeling pastors have abused.

Back then I was struggling with this question: Is God calling me or am I looking for another stage? I’ve written before about why that was important. In short, I considered myself a bit of an entertainer. I didn’t want the pulpit to provide a platform for that.

All these years later, I’m part of a denomination in turmoil. “Decline” is a word we use a lot. We aren’t good at renewing ourselves. So, our congregations continue to age. There’s nothing wrong with aging, of course. But we know what comes with age.

When someone young comes along, then, churches take notice. If he is a halfway decent preacher, he becomes someone churches want to hire. When he can connect to the church’s community, churches recognize what that could mean. What? He’s tech-savvy? That means our church can step into the twenty-first century. We can use his loud mouth to keep our youth group going.

And he has a young family!

A mentor once asked me, “What are you going to do when you’re not young anymore?” It was his challenge to prioritize my faith development. That’s what would last and be most important in my pastoral role. It would teach me more than belief. It would help me learn to trust God fully.

Now, I’m a bit uncomfortable sharing today like I have. I don’t want you to think I am puffing up myself. None of this is humble bragging. It’s okay to recognize our skills and abilities. They are gifts from God, right? What we must wrestle with is how much we depend on them.

If we begin and end with our skills, we replace our dependence on God. We build our own ministries and faith. What’s most dangerous, we won’t even realize it. That’s been a real struggle for the people of God since the beginning.

God-given ministries die because life does. There’s honor in letting them die with grace. It actually demonstrates trust in what God might be preparing for us next. We shouldn’t hold on to everything. But compare that to the sinking-sand ministries we build. We build these on our efforts and abilities. These should die. Instead, they exhaust us. They consume our resources. They create turmoil. And they don’t produce kingdom fruit.

Since we all have a ministry, we must wrestle with important questions. What are we going to do when we’re not young anymore? What will we do when we run out of the money we thought we had? How much have we depended on our leadership qualities over our trust in the Lord? Why do we choose sinking sand over life-giving ministry?

Let’s be good at what we do. But realize a feeble trust in ourselves keeps us from trusting God more.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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