My mind was blown by Joel Gregory’s book, Too Great a Temptation: The Seductive Power of America’s Super Church. In it, he confesses how he followed his desires for fame, power, and wealth to become pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas. I think, perhaps, it should be required reading for anyone heading into the pastorate! Likewise, Sinclair Lewis’ novel, Elmer Gantry, offers a fictional exploration of these same temptations. [The Burt Lancaster movie only covers some of Elmer’s failings.] Gregory’s book is an insider’s confession; Lewis’ tale is an antagonistic outsider’s observations. They both point to the same truth: Being a minister doesn’t mean you are super-human or above worldly influences.
What is pushing you to be a minister? I hope you answer: “The call of God!” If that’s not present in your understanding, something seems wrong to me. Unfortunately, the idea of a divine call seems to wane in today’s pursuit of serving God. One new M.Div. graduate (not from B. H. Carroll, thankfully), told me about plans to go to Scotland and get a doctorate. “And then what?” I inquired. “Well, I MIGHT give ministry a try,” he mused.
Another very successful pastor confided to me that GOD did not call him to ministry. His two brothers were ministers, just like their father, and just like their grandfather, as well. “My MOTHER called me to ministry,” he confessed with no shame.
What if these two had examined their hearts, learned about their personalities, confessed their secrets, and allowed God to work through them? Maybe the recent graduate would have said, “I might be feeling God’s call to pastor—and I’m going to explore that and try to clarify it.” The third-generation pastor might have continued with, “and though my mother manipulated me into ministry, I have since found that God used that dysfunctional relationship to put me right where the Lord wanted me.”
Most pastors, honest enough to explore their inner desires, will find that there are motivators that fall outside the parameters of what we normally see as “God’s call.” We need to be aware that we are, in part, also motivated by such earthy issues as:
- A desire to be loved and accepted
- The buzz that’s achieved by being on stage and in the limelight (even introverts)
- The ego strokes that come with surrendering to the call and serving in ministry
- The lure to be the boss and to tell others what to do
- The assumption that all mistakes will be forgiven, and employment is always secure
- The quest for a life without conflict
- The need to be needed
- The attempt to gain a parental blessing
Some of this list might be achieved; most of this list will likely go totally unfilled. Whatever you could add to this list is likely to be the latter.
Non-spiritual influences for our entering ministry often go unexplored and are, unfortunately, forever unknown. Thus, these motives can end up controlling us. A better alternative would be to work with a mentor, a coach, or a counselor—to make sure you are emotionally and spiritually at the top of your game for the very high calling on your life. We needn’t fear looking at these things, either, for God might have used them to pull us towards His calling. Isn’t it better that we acknowledge and control them, than vice versa?
Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.
Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. Carl Jung