Two of the main reasons people associate with a church is to be a success in life or to be a success in ministry. Both of these reasons are diluting the true heart of the Lord for His people.
The number one priority in the lives of believers should be to conform to the image of Christ. Period. Everything else will flow from there.
Jeremiah Johnson said this:
“If I had 100 students enrolled in a 4 year school of ministry, I would spend the entire first year delivering them from their need to be in ministry.
“That’s right, if you are called to the “ministry”, step one is getting delivered of your need to be in ministry.”
He also recommended this ministry training philosophy:
1. I would take ministry students hungry to preach and teach them how to pray.
2. I would take ministry students hungry for the applause of man and send them on a wilderness camping trip for three months to spend solitude with God. No social media and no cell phones.
3. I would take ministry students who like the sound of their own voice and have them clean the toilets and pick up trash for a year.
4. I would take ministry students who are enamored by their gifting and talent and have them do hospital visitation and nursing home visits for six months. Then I would have them sit with sexual abuse victims for six more.
5. I would take ministry students who want to be lazy and not work hard in “ministry” and have them work alongside congregants who actually hate their jobs and still go anyways because they have a family and bills to pay.
So long as this generation of “ministry students” continues to find their worth, value, and significance from being “in ministry”, which for them is to be on a stage somewhere at the center of attention and not in the hidden places learning how to be servants of all, we are in serious trouble!
IT”S ABOUT THE HEART’S MOTIVES
As someone who went to a ministry school and has had the opportunity to teach and train thousands of young students and ministers over the last 30 years, I have come to this same aforementioned conclusion. The scourge of ministry today is wanting to be seen and heard. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Corrupt motives corrupt the entire work of building up Christ’s Church.
We need to adopt the wise words of an aged minister, who made it his life’s quest to live this out:
“I could care less if God used me. I wish He’d take me off the platform. I’d be perfectly happy in a prayer room never being seen or heard. If you want to be seen or heard you shouldn’t be on any platform. The people don’t need to see and hear you, but Jesus anyway.” – Kenneth E. Hagin
And some people still think this man is a false prophet. Really? That’s the problem in Christendom today; we can’t discern from the true and false minister because corrupted motives cannot discern between the holy and profane.
“For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:13-14).
Here’s the process those who are taught of the Lord will usually go through over time:
Like Carolyn and me, if you’ve lived long enough you will have seen nearly every fad, trend, doctrinal heresy, and every spiritual imbalance to come down the pike. We’ve seen the fluff and the stuff that masquerades itself as “spiritual” or “the new thing God is doing”, but really has nothing to do with God. At my age and present season in life, my greatest desire is to be a man of prayer and a man of love – to know Christ deeply and walk with Him consistently, and love others as myself. Nothing else satisfies me and fulfills me.
The way you get there is by continually judging yourself and having your senses exercised to know the difference between good and evil, flesh and spirit, and the one that takes the most time – what is of man and what is of God. The process is one of continually coming to the light and weighing your motives in the light of eternity and allowing the Holy Spirit to expose areas of your life and heart so you don’t slip back into sin and darkness.
“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (Jn. 3:19-21).
When you move toward the light you are moving toward being continually judged by His words. This means you deal with your issues and the things the Spirit of God brings up from within you. This is a lifelong process of growing and being filled with the fruits of righteousness (Phil 1:11). Learn from the error of your ways and your disobediences and missteps and move on. Do not stay in condemnation and wallow in self pity, but keep moving toward the light. If you do this, you will grow spiritually, and you will become more stable and mature. If you don’t, you will remain at a stunted level of spiritual growth and won’t mature and bear much fruit.
The highest aim and priority of every Christian is to be conformed to the image of Christ. Every decision and action you take in life should be with His will in mind. Every thought, feeling, and emotion should be in accordance with His Word.
Weigh it all in the light of eternity and before the judgment Seat of Christ. Judging yourself is how you keep yourself under the Lord’s mercy.
“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7).
For more on this vital theme, refer to Purity Of Heart.