I was thinking recently that if I ever had the chance to speak at a seminary graduation again, I would discuss the fact that there are no rock stars in ministry.
I attended such a graduation a few months back and noticed that several of the young graduates had it in mind to make a big splash somewhere post-graduation: planting churches and/or being a senior pastor were most often their hope for a next (and often first?!?) step in ministry.
There’s something to be said for zeal and passion to do ministry. So often, when we’re young and idealistic about everything, we can accomplish great feats just by sheer bravado, youthful energy, and force of will. Why not sublimate that into ministry and work for the kingdom of God?
The problem is that there’s no “Christ” in that version of Christian leadership. Ladder climbing and unchecked ambition have been raised to the level of virtue in American culture; sadly, that has bled over into our churches. I don’t remember the Bible telling me to rely on bravado and force of will to get things done.
I simply can’t reconcile the version of rock star ministry that so many people aim for with what I read about Jesus:
You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had,
who though he existed in the form of God
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,
but emptied himself
by taking on the form of a slave,
by looking like other men,
and by sharing in human nature.
He humbled himself,
by becoming obedient to the point of death
– even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:5-8, 26 NET
Leading like Christ is servant leadership.
How on earth can I expect to truly minister to others if I’m always looking for them to make decisions to make me look good/feed my ambition? How can I possibly communicate that I care for others when I view my current ministry as merely a stepping stone on my way to the next, bigger place? How can I even claim that I’m following Jesus when my ministry lacks the humility and sacrifice that defined his?
The ability to lead is a God-given gift that should be exercised for his glory and to benefit others. Looking out for number one diminishes our ability to do either of those things. Handling our spiritual gifts well means tempering our strengths with humility.
Praising the one who has a gift is silly; the Creator who gives those gifts is worthy of worship. People will frequently get confused about this and want to make spiritual leaders into idols. That is all the more reason that the leader needs to know the difference and continually point people back to Jesus in both their words and the way they lead.