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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Going Into The Ministry? Think Hard First...

Good article I got recently for those contemplating going into the ministry. I subscribe to "Parchment and Pen" which you can check out for yourself at http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/

Charisma: "Power or personal quality that gives an individual influence or authority over large numbers of people."

Over the years I have learned that people enter the ministry for a variety of reasons. Among these reasons are:

1. Passion for the Gospel due to a life that has been recently transformed.
2. A "calling" through a series of open doors that compels the conscience that this is God’s will.
3. A circumstance where events happened to land them in a ministry position for which they were not seeking.
4. Following a family legacy.
5. Fulfillment of a promise or obligation that they have made before God.
6. An escape from the world into a occupation that provides an accountability that they cannot find in elsewhere.
7. Acquisition of power, prestige, or monetary rewards.
8. A compulsion from the body of Christ due to a recognized charisma.
9. Pure stupidity.

Both legitimate and illegitimate calls to ministry are most certainly going to have some combination of these. I remember reading Charles Spurgeon’s Letters to My Students and almost being scared out of pursuing ministry. He said that one should only enter ministry if there is nothing, absolutely nothing, else they can do. In other words, no one should casually "try out" a career in ministry any more than they should casually "try out" a career in ultimate fighting. There is a sense in which ministry is for everyone, but there is also a sense in which ministry is for a very few.

Charisma. This is #8. What a great thing it is to find someone with charisma. No, not charismatic in the spiritual gifts sense of the word, but charisma in the sense of allure, magnetism, appeal, dazzle, drawing power, fascination, flash, glamour, or pizzazz. There is a sense of pride in having charismatic representative of your party, group, family, race, country, baseball team, or whatever. People like people with charisma. We all do—especially in the church. I think of people like William Lane Craig, Darrel Bock, Charles Swindoll. Not only are they filled past full with complete awesomeness in their thinking, but they are also filled with charisma. They make good representatives. They are those who we kick out into the spotlight. They are the ones we tag with the label "Christian" for everyone to see. No, not some boorish fellow who knows what he is talking about but is unable to move the audience. Give us the pizzaz. Give use the pleasant demeanor of the more flashy characters.

What am I getting at? I don’t know. Yes, I do, but I don’t really know if what I have said so far has prepared for this. I love charisma. It is a gift of God. I think it can be a real force for Christianity. One which the Holy Spirit can energize. In fact, I believe that Christ was very charismatic. But I also recognize that without the power of the Holy Spirit charisma is salt water for a thirsty crowed. The Holy Spirit does not need charisma to accomplish his work. Most importantly, I know that it takes much more than charisma to find a call in ministry.
Hence Spurgeon’s warning: If you can find anything else to do . . . any other way to use your charisma, do it instead.

It is said that eighty-percent of those who enter full-time ministry have kicked the ministry bucket within five years. There are most certainly a variety of reasons for this, but I have recently begun to believe that one of the major reasons for this is because they were deceived by their own charisma. Charisma may get you started. Charisma may have called your name. Charisma may have given you initial confidence. Charisma may have preached your first sermon, raised your first dollar, or led your first crusade, but charisma does not come standard with cruise control.

Ministry is like blowing up balloons that all have a small leak. Your first balloon may have blown up really easy. You may think to yourself "This balloon blowing business is easy. I got what it takes. Look at the power of my lungs. Look at the size of this balloon. Give me another. What a sinch!" But some time (five years later?) you realize that the balloons are all deflating and you have to start all over again. Some of the balloons pop. Some, the holes grow larger and larger to where it just does not seem worth it to blow anymore. Finally, with all balloons deflated, your motivation and calling to ministry is deflated.

Stamina: "The quality or power of withstanding hardship or stress." I think that this is the key word. Let’s take the thesaurus route again. Endurance, constant energy, heart, indefatigability, intestinal fortitude, restraint, legs, staying power, resilience, thick skin, withstanding, resistance, starch, tolerance, vitality, patience, will, perseverance, persistence, resignation, resistance, resolution, , strength, submission, sufferance. I love "legs." That is why we walk on a treadmill for an hour rather than doing pull-ups for an hour. Your legs are build for long term endurance. Your arms are not. You have got to have legs to make it in ministry. I know that this is not particular to ministry, but it does find a special place within its walls. No amount of charisma is able to substitute for stamina. The ability to start is easy, but finishing is hard.

God does not test you by tallying how many people you have awed. He does not try you by eavesdropping on the reactions of the crowed. He will use your charisma, but he will try your will and perseverance. Once the balloons have deflated, once the counseled have divorced, once the committees have locked horns, once the volunteers don’t show, once the sermon is not is not awed, once the website gets hacked three times in one week(!), once the finances don’t take care of themselves each month, and once you have let everyone down time and time again, what are you going to do?

Count the cost. Didn’t Christ say something about this? (Luke 14:28ff) Charisma is not enough. In fact, it might deceive you into a false calling. Count the cost. If you don’t, dare I say your trek is #9 above.

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you." (2 Cor. 4:7-12)

End of self-therapy session.
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> posted by Jim Leavenworth at

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