“Do you want to be somebody?”
You wouldn’t expect this to be the title of a chapter in a book on preaching. Yet it is in the book On Preaching by H.B. Charles.
Charles reflects on a time in his ministry when he had his priorities wrong:
I had been too focused on where my “gifts” and “talents” could take me. I was viewing my ministry as a career to build, rather than a calling to fulfill. I was thinking about making my name great, rather than exalting the name of Jesus. I needed to be slapped in the face with a reminder that my only responsibility was to be faithful. The Lord is in charge of personnel placement.
The answer to this question affects our preaching, and it also affects every part of our ministries.
A Model of Faithfulness
I was asked yesterday about who models faithfulness to me. My answer: a pastor of a small church in the inner suburbs of Toronto. The church is small. The community is impoverished. The pastor is capable. He’s served there faithfully for decades. He’s not a ladder-climber. He considers it a privilege to serve the people who have been entrusted to him.
As I get older, my heroes are increasingly ordinary, faithful servants. I’m reminded that in the parable of the talents, the master rewarded the servants who were faithful with little as well as the servants who were faithful with much. “Preachers need not seek for larger spheres: let them be faithful in those which they now occupy,” Spurgeon said. Let’s be faithful with what we have.
The Applause of One
We were meant to crave approval. I watched a clip from America’s Got Talent yesterday in which a young girl was acclaimed by both the judges and the audience. She burst into tears. She wanted it, and it was so powerful it overwhelmed her.
We’re meant to seek glory. “It really is the struggle of struggles. It’s what we were made for, it’s what we crave, and it’s what we manage to mess up in some way almost every day,” writes Paul Tripp. “What’s the struggle? The struggle for glory.”
I’m meant to seek glory. I want to be overwhelmed by it. We go wrong, though, when we see ourselves as the object of glory, rather than wanting the applause to go to the only One who is worthy of glory. We go wrong when we live for the applause of others rather than the “well done” of our Father.
When ministry becomes about our glory and reputation, ministry becomes idolatry.
Take the Smaller Place
I regularly need to reread Francis Schaeffer’s book No Little People. Schaeffer writes:
If a place is too big and too active for our present spiritual condition, then it is too big … Take the smaller place so you have quietness before God … The Christian leader should be a quiet man of God who is extruded by God’s grace into some place of leadership.
The reason I need to read this so often is because I forget it so often. Seek the smaller place. Or, as Jack Miller put it, “Grace runs downhill. Seek the low place.”
Do I want to be somebody? Yes. It’s why I need to regularly pray for humility and the attitude of a servant. I want to be faithful with little, about God’s glory rather than my own, and content to take the smaller place. Then I’ll be prepared to preach and pastor.