The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.
1 Timothy 3:1
How could something so innocent become so corrupt?
Every minister of the word once aspired to this holy office. And when he did, he wanted to please Jesus. His only desire, his only prayer was: “Send me, I’ll go.”
But then, life happens.
A minister in training goes through the gauntlet, as it were. He begins his studies in seminary. And there, that old prayer, “Send me, I’ll go” turns into something else. Over time, it gets muddied. He stops praying that prayer.
I want to be a normal, mundane, average pastor of a medium to small congregation that struggles with understanding the basics of Christianity and the basics of relating to people in a loving manner.
Said no one, ever.
If a pastor is honest with himself, he wants great things to happen in his ministry—in his life. He wishes, even if he denies it, that his congregation would be bursting at the seams. He wants more visitors. He wants more members. He wants to matter. He wants people to recognize him for the awesome gifts he has.
A pastor who says he has never desired this is lying. He’s at the very least thought about it from time to time.
Pastors don’t aspire to be awful preachers. They want to be the best preachers possible. They want to wow the masses. If you could judge the heart of your pastor, nine times out of ten I’ll bet he would rather be a Tim Keller or John Piper than a nobody. Nobody wants to be a nobody. Everybody wants to be a somebody.
Just look at the private message that is sent to you when you follow someone on Twitter. “Come check out my website. “Like” me. Love me. “Follow me.” These things are commonplace now. They’re common for pastors, too.
The only problem with this is that Jesus doesn’t want this for his pastors. Jesus wants people to look to him, not at his pastors. Sadly, pastors can get caught up in this rat race of a trap just like anyone else. We’re no different. We have the same temptations, the same struggles, and often the same exact desires that you do.
We used to desire the office of an overseer. Now that we’re overseers, we desire glory, fame, power, awe, wonder. And inadvertently we want to rob Jesus of all that is exclusively his. We’re not praiseworthy; but we aspire to be. We want to be praised.
At first, this stems from a desire to change the world. To help people. To make a difference. And then it morphs into what it’s really all about: me, myself, and I. Such is the nature of the beast. We can’t help it but turn in on ourselves. Yes, even pastors are capable of such things.
Forgive us, sinners.
Deep down, those of us who read our bible still know that we’ve drifted far from when we first began. God desires greatness for us, absolutely. But his definition, his standard, his rubric for greatness is not in the great things we desire.
It’s in the small things—cooking, cleaning, working, changing diapers, preparing sermons that practically no one will listen to, visiting the sick, praying with the almost dead, counseling those who will never thank you, taking care of those who cannot pay you, shepherding those who don’t like you.
These are the some of the things that Jesus desires for his pastors. Why would he want it otherwise? What he did was not great. He never overthrew Roman rule. He didn’t slap Pontius Pilate in the face. He never spat on those who yelled, whipped, and mocked at him. He allowed for them to spit on him. He let them whip him. He prayed for them as they mocked him. “Lord, forgive them. For they know not what they do.”
This is the example of the one who sends ministers who are to go. God became a nobody—and not a somebody—in Jesus. He was from a little obscure town in a tiny place that doesn’t really matter. It’s a blip on a map, and yet, there in Nazareth—the Son of God was born, lived, died, was buried, and was raised from the dead. He ascended into heaven from that pathetic place. It’s funny, because even the most significant place in biblical history—the great city of Jerusalem—doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
In modern world history, Germany is more important than Jerusalem. In ancient history, Rome, Greece, or Persia tower over the tiny location of Palestine. Nobody cares. But God cared.
The smallest, tiniest, remotest things are what matter most to the God who became small—not big—to save us. God in Jesus Christ became not mighty, not great, but weak in order to accomplish grand things. It was through suffering that God put an end to suffering for good. It was through death that God killed death.
The smallest things are what matter the most to God.
And they are what should matter most to us.
Forgive me, Lord. Be merciful to me, a minister who is a sinner.
Some Recommended Reading on being ordinary
The first is by Dr. Michael Horton, my former professor, boss, and friend. You can't find a better book on why you should be all things ordinary.
The second is by Tish Harrison Warren and is available for pre-order. I highly recommend that you pre-order a copy; it looks excellent and she is the right person to write it.