About 5 years into my official full- time paid youth pastor role, I decided it was time for me to hit the “speaking “ circuit. I felt like I had been in the trenches for a good amount of time, and that it was time to equip others.
There was a pretty big name conference for urban youth ministers at the time and I was invited to submit an outline for consideration. Word came back that it just “didn’t have enough to offer.” In other words, I wasn’t quite ready yet. Needless to say I was crushed. Truly, I thought the Lord was calling me to share my experiences with the masses.
Still that experience caused me to step back and examine my heart. Why did I want to teach and speak? Did I want others to learn? Did I want the world to hear what I had to say? If I was honest, did I just want to be famous?
Who was I doing it for anyway? Me? Christ? It caused me to question who I was hoping would get the glory as I took center stage. I was saying “Jesus” but did I really mean me? I started to wonder if this was my hope in all of ministry? Was I really “in it” for changed hearts or that people might notice my great work?
As my years in ministry have marched on, the Lord has only continued to humble me in this area. How many times have I been concerned about me? My opinions are not being heard. My ministry is not growing or succeeding or shining. No one is listening to me.
My, mine, me.
Romans 1:1, Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:1, James 1:1 &2, 2 Peter 1:1, Jude 1:1 and Revelation 1:1, all have one statement in common. The first “sentence” of those passages describe the person putting pen to paper. Paul, a servant. Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ. “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.” “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude and James were believed to be half- brothers to Jesus. They did not say “I am Jesus’ brother. Mary’s son.” No- their identifier was- servant.
More appropriately the word used again and again is the Greek “doulos.” This word actually means slave or bond servant. You are indebted, in fact you belong to someone else. These “heroes of the faith” only wanted to belong to Jesus. Out of delight it was their duty to serve him fully. As we are told so eloquently in 1 Cor. 7:22 “And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ.” If we are a slave to earth we understand the freedom that comes with serving the Lord, if we were free we must understand what it means to serve the master’s will.
That means “I” must get out of the way. Pushing aside my ego, while “dying to self,” I remember it is all about Jesus. Me is not in this equation. For, I have nothing to offer.
However, grapple. When someone else’s ministry seems “better” than mine I think, “Lord do you not notice me?” When my student’s are not coming to group consistently, I wonder. I question, ”Why aren’t I famous?” Even as I type these words I cringe at my own selfishness. I am supremely uncomfortable and would rather not share with you the depravation of my own soul.
For my heart has grown with a desire to multiply the workers in the field. More than ever I want to be the hands and feet of Christ to raise up others to be well equipped as they “GO, ” wherever the Lord wants them Still, do I know what it really truly means to be a slave to Christ? This means be, do, go wherever he wants, whenever he wants. It means me, my, mine is eliminated from my vocabulary. It means I come to understand when those feelings rise up wanting to be “noticed” it is merely jealousy and insecurity. In short it is sin, and I have forgotten how to serve and more importantly who I belong to.
However, I am realizing something really important. There isn’t enough time to get stuck on “me.” There is a generation hungering and dying for Christ. They have no clue what it means to place their identity in him. They really don’t know they are the leaders of today. That means there is no way me by-myself or you by -yourself can do all the work. There is a large harvest in need of lots and lots of laborers.
The time has come to realize we are all slaves to the same one and only. Has my desire to speak and teach and train and write gone anywhere? No. It is actually more intact than ever. However, my purposes have changed. Every day I fight the fight of me. Minute by minute I kill self over and again. When my questions come back around to my own fame, well, then I have forgotten who owns me. For, as I contemplate the love he continuously pours out, how can I… no we… do anything less than be his doulos? I am wondering…