Some things really don’t change. For instance: we seem to face the same temptations in ministry that have been around for centuries.
2 Corinthians 4 is one of those passages that always seems to hit home to me. Paul covers four temptations that are common today for pastors, churches, and other ministries.
- Discouragement – “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart…” Everyone in ministry knows what it’s like to get discouraged.
- Manipulation – “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception…” There are all kinds of ways to manipulate people to get what you want from them. It’s tempting to do this, and to justify it because it’s ministry.
- Over-Adaptation – “nor do we distort the word of God.” We tend to be centered on the audience, and that means we’re tempted to adapt Scripture to make it more palatable, ignoring some themes and emphasizing others.
- A Focus on Ourselves – “For what we preach is not ourselves…” It’s very tempting to make ourselves the message, and to be personality-driven. Organizationally, we talk about the selling points of our ministry, and end up proclaiming the merits of our ministry rather than the merits of Christ.
Bam. This is no theoretical list. I’m familiar with each one of these temptations. Maybe a little too familiar.
Paul counters these with two correctives:
- A Focus on the Gospel – “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord…” Making Jesus and his gospel the theme of our lives and ministries goes a long way to overcoming these temptations.
- Remembering We’re Just Servants – “and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” We’re not really the point, nor are we in charge of the results. It’s our job to serve and to keep the focus on Jesus, and then get out of the way.
There’s enough in here to keep me thinking for days.