Wednesday, May 05, 2010


A friend of mine said something pretty interesting to me: "I came to my first pastorate looking for a group of people who would affirm me. But what they were looking for was someone who could lead them to hope in Jesus."

I found this to be an especially honest reflection. The fact is, a person can find a fair amount of affirmation in ministry. Maybe you've heard this before: "Thank you Pastor. That was just what I needed to hear!" Or this: "That was such a beautiful prayer." Or: "I want you to know that you are a blessing to me." God's people can be awfully kind sometimes. When I was a young pastor I didn't know what to do with the encouragement, so on the surface I was way too godly: "All the glory goes to Jesus sister!" Meanwhile the "internal me" was far too human. Secretly I would look forward to these comments far too much and feel like I was going through withdrawal when they were not forthcoming. I think I've grown a little since then.

1. I got clear that my ministry is unto the Lord and people are just the beneficiary of that, instead of the other way around.

2. I started living for the ultimate, final affirmation - "well done good and faithful servant" - instead of the temporal, passing affirmations.

3. I understood that the same people who shout "Hosanna!" on one day will cry "crucify him!" days later. If I put too much stock in the compliments it is harder to divest myself of the criticism.

4. I realized that the truth was somewhere in the middle - I'm not quite as good as my best day and not quite as bad as my worst day. While people tend to notice the unusually good or bad, I've tried to put more energy into raising my average.

5. I got clear that "It is not about me." Truly, as my friend said, I just need to be a finger pointing to Jesus.

As I began to grow in my character something interesting started happening in my response to affirmation. I started saying, "Thank you, I appreciate that" to compliments, but in my self talk reminding myself that I am holding treasure in a jar of clay. I'm doing much better, if I do say so myself.

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