When ‘Ministry’ Runs Amuck

Sara and I are continuing through Blue Like Jazz and enjoying lots of wonderful observations. In one chapter he finds himself teaching a college group at a local congregation. He substituted one Sunday, only to turn out to become the college pastor the next few weeks because they liked his teaching so much. He describes a process too often repeated in people who have a heart for ministry in honest terms one rarely hears:

“I swam in the attention and the praise. I loved it. I lusted for it. I almost drowned in it. “

And he wasn’t kidding. After a year or more he discovers that his teaching has replaced his own relationship with God. In a quote worth the price of the whole book, he writes:

“I have become an infomercial for God, and I don’t even use the product.”

When he realizes how empty his life became while teaching a class that everyone loves, he goes to the pastor to resign saying he’s leaving for awhile. The pastor tries to talk him out of it, but Don knows something isn’t right and he needs to sort it out. He tries to explain to his befuddled leader why he is going away.

“Because I can’t be here anymore. I don’t feel whole here. I feel, well, partly whole,. Incomplete. Tired… Something got crossed in the wires and I became the person I should be and not the person I am. It feels like I should go back and get the person I am and bring him here to the person I should be.”

That’s what religion does to you. In pretending to be what we’re not we lose sight of who we are. How can recognize the presence of the Living God beckoning us to his life if we are so busy pretending to be what we think we should be instead of letting God have us just as we are. God doesn’t live in our fantasies. He lives in reality. Part of learning to see him clearly is emptying ourselves of all that we use to hide behind. It may be a painful process, but it will allow us to once again connect with the Father who loves us so much and who is the only one who can put our lives back together.

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8 Comments
  1. J. Lewis Blake January 19, 2005 at 7:00 pm

    I found myself over a year ago in that same position–drunk on the praises of men, but dead sober about the pitiful state of my relationship with God. As I made the break from my 20 years of pastoring in a pentecostal denomination, I wish I could say things got better. However, as I let go of the salary and security of the corporate structure I seemed to slip deeply into a struggle I feared I couldn’t escape. I suffered withdrawals like a man on crack. The pulpit, the performance, the use of the whole package to give me self worth had created an addiction that only my wife knew I had. Thankfully, over the last six months God has brought me to the place of discovering who I was born to be–not the man men were fashioning. What freedom! Concepts of relational faith and freedom from the expectations of others that I had only nibbled on over the last two decades have now become vital pieces of a new life. Thanks, Wayne.

  2. J. Lewis Blake January 19, 2005 at 10:00 pm

    I found myself over a year ago in that same position–drunk on the praises of men, but dead sober about the pitiful state of my relationship with God. As I made the break from my 20 years of pastoring in a pentecostal denomination, I wish I could say things got better. However, as I let go of the salary and security of the corporate structure I seemed to slip deeply into a struggle I feared I couldn’t escape. I suffered withdrawals like a man on crack. The pulpit, the performance, the use of the whole package to give me self worth had created an addiction that only my wife knew I had. Thankfully, over the last six months God has brought me to the place of discovering who I was born to be–not the man men were fashioning. What freedom! Concepts of relational faith and freedom from the expectations of others that I had only nibbled on over the last two decades have now become vital pieces of a new life. Thanks, Wayne.

  3. J January 19, 2005 at 10:10 pm

    Sup’?

    Very truthful article Wayne. Many times Christians also feel the need to pretend for the sake of man. Why is it that so many of us look for man’s approval instead of God’s? I think we all have fallen into this trap at one time or another. Sad.

    On our own, we are capable of many things that only blind us to the truth that we are not capable of doing anything righteous without God. It’s like a drug. It makes us feel better for the moment, but eventually we are going to come to the realization that we worshipped at the feet of Ourselves or Each Other, and that’s when the drug wears off.

    First and foremost, we must be honest with ourselves. If we have a "drug" problem, we must seek help. Obviously in this situation, there is only one Counselor. We must seek Jesus and ask Him to help us see ourselves as He sees us. If we do that, we will realize that we are indeed loved. Once we start worshipping the Living God, then we will learn not to worship ourselves or each other.

    Praise the Lord that we can serve a God that loves us despite ourselves. Praise the Lord that we can serve a God that desires nothing less and nothing more than authentic intimacy with each and every one of His children. Now lets go serve the Lord.

    Your bro.—-J

  4. J January 20, 2005 at 1:10 am

    Sup’?

    Very truthful article Wayne. Many times Christians also feel the need to pretend for the sake of man. Why is it that so many of us look for man’s approval instead of God’s? I think we all have fallen into this trap at one time or another. Sad.

    On our own, we are capable of many things that only blind us to the truth that we are not capable of doing anything righteous without God. It’s like a drug. It makes us feel better for the moment, but eventually we are going to come to the realization that we worshipped at the feet of Ourselves or Each Other, and that’s when the drug wears off.

    First and foremost, we must be honest with ourselves. If we have a "drug" problem, we must seek help. Obviously in this situation, there is only one Counselor. We must seek Jesus and ask Him to help us see ourselves as He sees us. If we do that, we will realize that we are indeed loved. Once we start worshipping the Living God, then we will learn not to worship ourselves or each other.

    Praise the Lord that we can serve a God that loves us despite ourselves. Praise the Lord that we can serve a God that desires nothing less and nothing more than authentic intimacy with each and every one of His children. Now lets go serve the Lord.

    Your bro.—-J

  5. maryann January 20, 2005 at 6:38 am

    i wish our pastor could see this.

    the part about being informercial and not using the product.

    as a congregation we do not see him worship…in fact, during praise and worship time in the middle of PRAYER WEEK, he spent the time rearranging the chairs and stacking them up at the sides of the altar…the congregation was SUPPOSED to be singing and worshipping but they sang and watched the pastor fix all the chairs. is something wrong there?

    I do pray that his eyes be opened to what is going on.

  6. maryann January 20, 2005 at 9:38 am

    i wish our pastor could see this.

    the part about being informercial and not using the product.

    as a congregation we do not see him worship…in fact, during praise and worship time in the middle of PRAYER WEEK, he spent the time rearranging the chairs and stacking them up at the sides of the altar…the congregation was SUPPOSED to be singing and worshipping but they sang and watched the pastor fix all the chairs. is something wrong there?

    I do pray that his eyes be opened to what is going on.

  7. Dave A January 21, 2005 at 6:02 am

    Maryann,

    You have my permission to pick up one of those chairs and lovingly smack your pastor upside the back of his head.

    Sorry, just venting. I think we’ve all been in that pretentious place at times. Perhaps I’ve gotten so tired of seeing it myself that I see it now more in others.

    Dave

  8. Dave A January 21, 2005 at 9:02 am

    Maryann,

    You have my permission to pick up one of those chairs and lovingly smack your pastor upside the back of his head.

    Sorry, just venting. I think we’ve all been in that pretentious place at times. Perhaps I’ve gotten so tired of seeing it myself that I see it now more in others.

    Dave

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