Ministry is a Battlefield!

(This message was originally published on January 15, 2014)

Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel.  I have said often that SBC of Virginia churches are allies in advancing the Gospel. But, this is not a cake walk!

Paul David Tripp writes in his book Dangerous Calling that “ministry is war.” (Chapter 7)

At our SBCV Young Pastors’ Summit yesterday, we had roundtable discussions about the battle that is waged in our lives as ministers of the Gospel.  In his book, Tripp writes, “pastoral ministry is always shaped by a war between the kingdom of self and the kingdom of God.”  The Lord Jesus preached in Matthew 6:33 that we are to seek first the kingdom of God.  Tripp notes that as ministers we will treasure something. The Lord Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6:21 that what we treasure will command the allegiance of our hearts.

Tripp identifies five shifts that can take place in regards to what we treasure:

(1) Identity.  Moving from identity in Christ to identity in ministry.  I can begin to treasure my position in church more than my position in Christ.  I allow my identity to become more about what I do as a minister than who I am as a follower of Jesus.

(2) Maturity.  Defining spiritual well-being not by the mirror of the Word but by ministry.  Tripp writes, “Biblical literacy is not to be confused with Christian maturity.”  I need the Gospel as much as the people listening to my sermons.  He cautions that we can begin to view ourselves as being more mature than we are because of the appearance of success in our ministry.

(3) Reputation.  Shifting from a ministry shaped by zeal for the reputation of Christ to a ministry shaped by hunger for the praise of people.  This is a tough battle.  We can easily desire the applause of people and the esteem of others.  We are stewards of the Gospel and servants of King Jesus.  May we be motivated by the glory of Christ.

(4) Essentiality.  Moving from rest in the essential presence of Jesus the Messiah to seeing oneself as way too essential to what God is doing.  I must resist having a Messiah complex.  I can begin to try to carry upon my shoulders the burden of ministry demands.  The minister of the Gospel is a high and sacred calling, but we serve the Lord Jesus with the Body of Christ.  May I treasure the gifts that Christ has placed within the other members of His Church.

(5) Confidence.  Shifting away from a humble confidence in transforming grace to overconfidence in one’s own experience and gifts.  I must not become too confident in myself.  Tripp warns that because of overconfidence, “I don’t grieve enough, I don’t pray enough, I don’t confess enough, and I don’t listen to others enough.”

I pray that we will seek Him and have our confidence firmly in the grace of Christ, for the glory of Christ.

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