I go through cycles of enjoying one TV show at a time (i.e. it’s all I watch) and currently it’s Bones. Recently, I was watching a rerun when I caught the following exchange between FBI Agent Seeley Booth, one of the main characters of the show, and another FBI agent.
Booth: Look, I don’t have anything against you, Agent Finn. I just don’t like the way you view the FBI.
Finn: What do you mean?
Booth: This is a proud and noble job, but you’re using it to get to something else. My advice, write your script, get an agent, hell, have a little plastic surgery, but quit using my Federal Bureau of Investigation as a stepping stone to something you think is better. Because in my book, there is nothing better.
I cheered. My heart soared. I resonate with Booth deeply, but not about the FBI. Such is how I feel about working in the Church.
I recognize that I am a dying breed. I love the church and have much hope for what she can do in our hurting world. I know historically her work has been critical for developing and maintaining medical care, education, and justice. When people are transformed by the Gospel and live changed lives, it has a profound impact on everyone around them.
…Not to mention the fact that the Church is charged with bringing the only eternity-transforming message to people who desperately need it.
It burns me up when I find people who work in the church as a stepping stone to some other career: writing books, consulting, public speaking, rock star, etc. It’s one thing when your life path takes on a meandering course and God moves you in that direction for a season. It’s something else entirely when you work in a church and use it to promote your real dream.
As 1 Peter 5:1-3 says,
“I have a special concern for you church leaders. I know what it’s like to be a leader, in on Christ’s sufferings as well as the coming glory. Here’s my concern: that you care for God’s flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way.” [emphasis mine]
The emphasized section in the NASB says, “not for sordid gain” and in Greek, it means, “and not eagerness for base gain.” Peter is saying, don’t do it for money or influence or opportunity to further your own situation. That’s the lowest aim in ministry.
If you want to sell books, don’t work in the Church. If you want to be a speaker, don’t work in the Church. If you want to gain clients, grow your business, or do anything else long-term, don’t use the Church in the short-term to further that end.
Ministry is a calling and a passion. You will only hurt yourself and your congregation trying to use it as a stepping stone to arrive at “something better.”
Instead, love the people with whom God has entrusted you. Give them your care and attention. Make loving them well your priority. When you do so, you honor God and reveal his presence to our hurting world. Peter urges his readers to hold out for the good stuff. The unfading, real glory they’ll receive when God appears (1 Peter 5:4, 6). This is the highest aim in spiritual leadership.
I have to remind myself of this often. Like everyone of my generation, I have high hopes of making a huge impact. God has been teaching me slowly but surely the past few years that faithfully doing what he places before me has the exact amount of impact he wants. Not always the impact I want, but nevertheless the one he wants.
God, may we lead in light of eternity. May we do it for your glory. May our competing loyalties for things of this world be stripped away so that our desire is simply to see you revealed. And God, may that desire come to pass!