There is a flood of things I want to comment on here, but I have not been able to give much time to it recently. I will begin briefly here by touching on one thing which ties together three recent things that have been on my mind:
· Kent and Barbara Hughes’ book, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome
· D. A. Carson’s book, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor
· And a visit from a pastor friend from Nepal
I have benefitted from each of these in numerous ways, but together they have served as a strong word to me concerning my own ambitions and my view of success. I hope to comment on each of these further, but here I will make some basic points.
The Hugheses and Carson directly challenge the common ideas of what constitutes pastoral success today and call us to faithfulness before God and among His people. Both point out how little God is impressed with our accolades and the difference between the praise of man and the favor of God. These are not new points, but important and helpful ones. I stress these points with my students but can so easily be drawn into pursuing success in worldly terms (praise of man, accumulation of accolades, notoriety and publications). This way of thinking leads us to pursuing our own glory under the guise of pursuing God’s glory- a despicable thing! This way of thinking weighs us down with demands and tasks that may not be God’s calling for us, leading to unnecessary exhaustion and weariness. This way of thinking sets us up to envy other believers when they are blessed rather than rejoicing- precisely because our true interest is the advancement of ourselves rather than the advancement of the Kingdom.
My friend from Nepal then served as an embodied example of this selfless, joyful service as he related quite matter-of-factly accounts of the suffering he and others endure, their deprivation all the while exhibiting a deep and winning thankfulness and contentment. He is not known here in the West. He has no books in the works. But he is pouring out his life in preaching the gospel, leading people to faith, discipling them, mentoring pastors, overseeing the establishment of churches and quite literally seeing the gospel impact his country. He would remind me that we each have our calling and that his work is no greater than mine. I find my self humbled and exposed.
Lord, let me daily live in such a way as to hear you on the last day say, “Well done.” And let that vision free me from the allure of the praise of man and self-glory. Then I will know the pleasure and freedom in walking in the calling you have given me.