Ambitious. Self-starter. Entrepreneurial. Strong work ethic. Discontent with the status quo. Big vision. Change agent. Strong leader and communicator. Get-things-done type of person. Driven. All of these describe me.
For years I have held these traits up as a badge of honor. The church has so much work to do. Our mission is monumental, and our tasks are unending. Jesus told us to go. People need to be reached. Ministries must to be launched and stewarded well. Ministry must be done with excellence. I think pastors ought to be the hardest working people in the world, because our mission has so much on the line!
However, let’s be honest: we probably have the best of intentions, but sometimes our drive overrides God’s plans. Many times we unconsciously run ahead of him in our desire to be successful in carrying out the Great Commission. I have told our church many times that the greatest temptation I face is not stealing the offerings or having an affair; it’s substituting what I do for God for what I am with God.
One of the challenges I see with the most gifted Christ followers in ministry is this: Our greatest assets, outside of His Lordship, become our greatest liabilities. Being driven is a good thing, until that drive overrides the drive of the Spirit. Compounding the challenge is the fact that we don’t even recognize what’s driving us. We don’t often understand why we do what we do. If we could really see what’s in our hearts, we might come to the conclusion that what’s driving us, is often not the Holy Spirit, but just plain old flesh. The greatest battle we face is not a battle against our ministries. It’s the battle between our flesh and His Spirit.
I believe that gut-honest answers to many of these questions would often reveal that even though we preach against it, our ministries are often being driven as much or more by our flesh, not His Spirit. Paul said, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:5 ESV).
What does God really have in mind for your life? What does God really have in mind for your ministry? What if it’s different from what you always thought it would be? Are you willing to surrender your dream to His dream? Your willingness to wrestle with these questions may just determine whether you are ever really successful…in His eyes!
Excerpt from my book: The Measure of Our Success: An Impassioned Plea To Pastors, available now on Amazon.