If you aspire to ministry, don’t be stupid. Decide now to avoid these obvious pitfalls.
I had the privilege of sharing a pulpit with Dr. Mary Ann Brown two times. She was bold, prophetic and painfully blunt. People who hate women preachers hated her even more because of her no-nonsense sermons—always delivered in her Texas twang. She would get her audience laughing and then skewer them with a hot blade of truth.
When this spiritual giant died last month at age 73, I remembered the last words she said to me when we were together at a conference in Chicago in 2011. After lamenting the fact that so many ministers in the United States were failing, Mary Ann locked eyes with me and said with stern, motherly authority: “Lee, please don’t ever get stupid.”
I knew exactly what she meant—and I’ve pondered her words often, especially since her death. I don’t want to be stupid; I want to finish well. So how can we avoid spiritual stupidity? We can start by avoiding these 10 mistakes that have become common in our movement during the past decade. If you are a minister, or if you aspire to be one, please decide now that you will never copy these behaviors.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. — 2 Corinthians 4:7-9
Every Christian is a vessel God has uniquely created for sharing a treasure with others. This treasure, referred to as the gospel of Jesus, is contained in "fragile clay jars" so it's "clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves." Paul uses the phrase "fragile clay jars" because as humans we are easily broken and we struggle with the most basic details of life. Yet we are called to pour out our treasure so that the world comes into contact with God.
God's works flow naturally from a person whose life has been totally committed to him. The key is to give liberally of what we've received, knowing that the Lord will continue to fill us so that we are never totally empty nor constantly overflowing. Instead, our container will be full of holes that continuously pour out the love of Jesus. As long as we are being filled by God daily, we will never have a problem serving those he wants us to serve (see Galatians 6:10).
However, these clay jars can eventually become empty from lack of use. Empty vessels serve little purpose other than taking up space. And the Lord does not want us to simply exist. As pastor Rick Warren has correctly noted, each person has been made for a purpose. When a follower of Christ is not connected to the source of these gifts, his or her desire for serving God and other people diminishes.
Think about your life-vessel today. How has it been used to store the goodness of God? Has that goodness flowed into other lives? Has God's measure of goodness in you evaporated from days and months of non-use? Or is your life a container full of holes, leaking the goodness of God continuously because you are continuously filled by the source that never runs dry?
Be proactive and decisive as you declare God's Word over your life.
“‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jer. 29:11, NKJV). God’s thoughts are of abundance and not lack. He wants you to live large and to bring you into a good life. Toward this end, He gives you divine inspirational thoughts and the ability to speak them into existence so that you will grow to fulfill His best plan for your life.
He wants you to mature in wisdom, authority and supernatural ability so that you can bear witness to the splendor of His kingdom. Your miracle is already in existence, but it is up to you to learn to see it and to call it out.
“If God says his chosen ones are acceptable to him, can anyone bring charges against them? Or can anyone condemn them? No indeed!” (Rom. 8:33-34 CEV)
Most of us spend our entire lives trying to earn acceptance. We want to earn it from our parents, peers, partners in life, from people we respect, maybe even from people we envy. The drive to be accepted is a deep drive that can influence the kind of clothes you wear, the kind of car you drive, the kind of house you buy, and even the career you choose.
Remember how, as a kid, you wanted so badly to be in the in-crowd that someone would say to you, “I dare you to do this” and suggest something that was either stupid or that put your personal safety at risk. But you did it anyway, because your desire to be accepted overruled the desire for safety.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36, NIV)
The world defines freedom as a life without any restraint: “I can do anything I want to do and say anything I want to say without anybody telling me what to do.” Everybody else may get burned by you, but you get to do it your own way. The world says you can have your freedom but only by being totally selfish.
Yet, the Bible says the only way to true freedom is through Jesus: “If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free” (John 8:36, GNT).
Real freedom is freedom from fear, where you’re truly free from guilt, from worry, from bitterness and from death. You’re free to quit pretending because you’re free to be yourself.
How do you get rid of those kinds of fears? By letting God love you! The apostle John teaches that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear...” (1 John 4:18, NIV).