I have the privilege of knowing a good number of guys my age in ministry. Many are friends and many acquaintances. I am honored to be part of a generation of young men who take the Bible and the Gospel seriously. Many of you have accomplished much at a young age, and you have gained a place of influence among your peers. You are gifted through the roof in areas of preaching and leadership. God has already used you in tremendous ways and He will continue to do so. I want to plead with you, however, to do a few things that might help keep us all on the path marked out for us. These are things I have been guilty of or indifferent towards, and want to keep in check. I am sure most of you have heard these things, but we all need to hear them time and time again since “the whole life of believers should be repentance” (Martine Luther, 95 Theses).
Fill your life with love for Him. Love Him and fill your affections with Him more than anything else in the world. Don’t let football or weightlifting or golf or preaching or writing sermons or growing your church or buying books or meeting influential people mean more to you than Him. He does not need you! He chose to use you for His glory and name! Treasure Him!
One of the problems with ministry is that you get so tied up into helping other people and dealing with their spiritual struggles, that you either forget your own sins or become blind to them. You will always find someone in your church with worse sins than you. Don’t let that cause you to lower the bar in your own life and think you have no need to search your own soul. God wants you holy, not successful. If you never write a book or grow a big church or become an influential blogger, it does not matter. If you never become a godly man, that does matter. If you cut corners with expense accounts or cheat on your income taxes or sleep-in simply because you can or skimp on your devotional life, it will impact your ministry.
Pursue Your Wife
You will do more for your ministry and your people by pursuing your wife than by preaching 100 sermons on marriage. If you lose the battle at home, you cannot win the battle at your church. She is more important than the ministry, even your ministry! This goes for your kids as well. Pursue them.
If you pursue success you just might get it and lose your soul! You cannot control how successful you are in ministry. Some of you will pastor churches of 200 and some 2000. But you don’t get to decide this, God does. Your place in ministry is just as much a gift from God as your own salvation. I think it is silly to buy into the idea that we must do what Rick Warren or Mark Driscoll has done in order to be successful. You might ought to be thankful that God has not done something numerically big in your life because if He did, it would have pulled your heart away from Him. Work, think, pray, learn, read, study, labor and let God worry about the results. You focus on the depth of your ministry and let God focus on the breadth (I think John Macarthur said that). Success is a whore, it is an idol. And the one thing idols will always do is let you down.
Watch Your Body
Lets face it, preachers are not known for their physique, nor should they be. But we should be concerned. Many of us who are in our 20′s don’t think we will ever get old or tired or fat. We can and will. Watch your body. God will never ask you to do something that will not involve your body. Exercise. Eat well. Take care of your voice. The Resurgence is doing a series right now called The Preachers Voice. Check it out. Lets not wait until we are 40 to decide to get in shape. Most of our work is mind work, but the mind will break down if the body does. You don’t have to keep track on your bench press or blog about how many miles you ran, just keep your body useful. Physical exercise is valuable in some ways (1Timothy 4:8).
Constantly Check Your Motives
Why are you in this? To make much of you? Do you really want to see spiritual growth and maturity in your people or just preach good sermons? At some point you will have to kill that part of you that set out in ministry to be the next John Piper or Charles Stanley or Billy Graham or Charles Swindoll or Andy Stanley. It needs to die. Ministry needs to stop being about you. I just realized this about two years ago!
Leaders are readers. Are you devouring books or just buying them without reading them? Read to learn, not impress people. Think deeply about God and ideas so that your people can enjoy the fruit of your labor. Commit to never believing that you have arrived.
Ministry Is About People
God has not called you to simply preach. He has called you to lead people. They are not distractions. Don’t avoid them or hate them. Love them, be patient with them, serve them, admonish them, rebuke them. Many are never going to get it, thats OK! Many of them aren’t going to share your same passion and zeal. Many of them aren’t going to become leaders. Many of them aren’t going to read through Wayne Grudems Systematic! All of them need to be lead to obey and enjoy God. All of them will need their pastor to be for them. So press into them, be present with them, let them see you.
We are going to suffer. God is going to beat the crap out of us! That is a good thing because many of us have a lot of crap in us. We are using ministry to prove ourselves and make our name known. It is almost impossible for me to preach without wondering how well I did. Many of us cannot stand when someone doesn’t like us or disagrees with us. We fear men more than God. This is idolatry and the only place idols cannot live is the desert. They die there! May God graciously lead us to the desert to spare us from the sidelines.
Father, I pray that you would use us young men for the glory of your name. May we be a blessing to our people. May we pursue you with red hot passion and allow you to change us before we attempt to change people. Mold us, shape us, keep us from the enemy. Kill whatever is in us that makes us doubt your love and work and power. Never allow us to rely upon our own power and energy because we are young. Help us to acknowledge our utter helplessness apart from you. This is hard for us to do sometimes because we often feel powerful in our own right. May we die to making much of us and live to make much of you.
For The Fame Of Jesus