3 Drastic Warnings for Gifted Preachers (So You Don't Wreck Your Life)Jul 08, 2022
Like a rocket launched toward space, such can be the acclaim and notoriety that come quickly to a gifted preacher.
A gifted preacher, no matter if they are a part of a small church or mega church or somewhere in between, can deal with the same pitfalls.
And even if public acclaim and notoriety don’t come your way, danger is still lurking. Because the same temptations are lying in wait, ready to pounce.
This article is written for the person who feels most alive when they preach. The person who feels called to preach. The person who takes their craft seriously. The person who knows how to communicate well. The person whose gift is preaching. The person who might even see themselves as the mouthpiece of the local body of Christ.
A disclaimer: I don't issue these warnings to you from a podium looking down on you. I share them as a fellow practitioner who must continually heed the same warnings.
Drastic Warnings for Gifted Preachers
1. Your metrics might be lying
Most people get into ministry because they have a genuine desire to help people know King Jesus. They want people to grow in their faith and walk in the good things God prepared for them to do before they were ever born.
But ministry can be tough for a number of reasons but one that is most deceitful:
Ministry doesn’t come with great measurables.
If you’re a salesman, you know you succeeded when someone purchases the product.
If you’re a surgeon, you know you succeeded when the surgery solves the ailment.
If you’re a delivery driver, you know you succeeded when you make all your deliveries in the time that is expected.
Ministry, though, doesn’t work that way. And it can drive you nuts.
Sure, you can see when people surrender to Jesus. But you rarely know the extent of your impact.
So what do we do? We look to vanity metrics… the three P’s of ministry: people, profit, and praise.
So as long as people are present, profits are rising, and praise is increasing, we sense that we must be doing something right. This must be the blessing of God (a nice little soft prosperity gospel to give us warm and fuzzies).
And this creates a messy feedback loop. More people means more profit which turns into more praise which turns into a raise. It might even turn into speaking opportunities at larger congregations. Which might increase the praise you receive.
All the while, your soul is starving.
No one seems to reward you for your faithfulness. It just seems to be permission to play not reason to reward. So after a little while, you started to focus on what’s rewarded.
You see the way this ladder works. It’s not different from the corporate world. Succeed at the first two P’s of ministry (people and profit) and you might even get a spot on stage at your favorite conference (and maybe even a book deal). After all, those preachers have those two P’s in common for the most part, don’t they?
But let me issue this caution to you: your metrics might be lying.
True success in ministry is not summarized in the so-called three P’s of ministry that I’ve outlined. It’s summarized in faithfulness to the Lord and what He’s told you to do.
Resist letting your “job performance” be dictated by those three P’s. The Lord sees your heart. The Lord sees you at the hospital visiting that person. He sees you counseling that couple. You might not get notoriety as a result of those simple moments, but the Lord sees you.
It could be that you devote all your energy to reaching more people, raising profits, and increasing the praise you receive and while it’s all up and to the right, your soul is slowly wasting away and you’re on the path that leads to destruction, having forgotten your first love.
You have gained the whole world and sacrificed your soul.
2. Your communication skills can eventually be a mask
How many times have we seen gifted preachers who are master communicators be riddled with scandal?
It’s happened to mega church pastors and apologists aplenty. But even more than that are the countless accounts of gifted preachers riddled with scandal in small, medium, and large churches alike.
Why do we continue to see gifted ministers fall into temptation and completely ruin their lives and the people’s lives around them?
How could they? Why would they? I would never.
Not so fast, friend.
Maybe you wouldn’t but you certainly could.
Gifted preacher, you must understand this: your communication skills can eventually be a mask.
You have preaching talent. You’re good at what you do. But not just because of your talent but because you’ve worked hard at developing your craft. The problem is, you can master arguments and communication tactics while repeatedly ignoring the need to kill your flesh.
You can get so good at preaching the word and in reality be a white-washed tomb.
What started out as a love for God and His word and a desire to love people through the proclamation of His gospel can turn into a commoditized message that you offer people.
When the next sermon, week in and week out, becomes merely a message for them and not also for you first, be warned.
You’re traveling down a dangerous road. It’s time to repent.
3. There’s a lure to insulate yourself from your people
This can happen at any size church. But it usually happens in seasons of growth.
The systems and structures start to become stressed so you make adjustments. The demands on your time increase. So you tweak. And tweak. And tweak.
Many of these shifts are good and needed. After all, the church need not be dependent on you. That’s not healthy nor is it biblical.
But there’s a shadow side to these adjustments.
They can lead to a lure to insulate yourself from your people.
Before too long, you’re no longer in a small group. Before too long, you’re no longer available for lunch meetings. Before too long, you’re not available for counseling sessions.
Why? Because you’re trying to do more of what you do best. That’s your most valuable contribution, right?
Friend, you’re more than a sermon machine.
And your people need more than a sermon machine.
You need you to be more than a sermon machine.
Be weary of the lure to insulate yourself too heavily. You need to be among the sheep you’re shepherding under the Great Shepherd.
Be weary of the lure to surround yourself with yes people. Be weary when you’re always the smartest person in the room. Be weary when you’re above being held accountable.
A Parting Word
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do what you do well. That’s true whether you’re a carpenter or a preacher (or both). But remember what the goal is. It's not to be great but to point to the One who is great.
Allow me to pass on two verses to you that were first given to Timothy that have been greatly beneficial to me:
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life; he seeks to please the commanding officer. - 2 Timothy 2:3-4
Seek to please the commanding officer. Through the suffering and through the rejoicing.
Grow in Your Preaching
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