Your Resume is Great, So What?

June 8, 2014

Having been in ministry of some form since 1975 I have seen a few things. Some have been great and others not so great. I have had some victories and fallen on my face. Yet, I have always had the desire to serve the Lord and have pressed on looking for His grace and wisdom to lead me on though many times I thought maybe I could do it on my own.

Having found that I cannot do it on my own I wonder how we got to where we are where so many things are considered for a person to serve that have nothing to do with Scripture. The process tends to place people in a position where they have to depend on themselves and the system to find a place of service rather than the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, if you look at the qualifications of a pastor and deacon in 1 Timothy 3 and then look at some of the “job descriptions” churches and organizations use to select people you will find a vast difference between them.

Oddly enough, the Apostle Paul had the 1st Century version of the credentials desired today and he counted them as dung and nothing to hang on to very tightly. He had the education, the references, the positions, titles and power that would make many a ministry salivate and yet after he was saved they were useless. He now had real wisdom and power. Yes, he used his background in ministry as all people do. I come from a variegated background to say the least and while I can use that to gain an audience once I get an ear it is not going to help me much. After that, God better be doing something or I am wasting my time building wood, hay and stubble as well as possibly preventing someone from being saved or committed to Christ if they are saved.

However, the flip side of Paul would keep him from serving in any large or famous ministry in America. He has been incarcerated several times so many a prison ministry may interview him. He has caused instances of community unrest even to the point of riot. He does not have a great oratory style or voice and he does use it to insult people from time to time. He will not look good even in an Armani suit because the scars from his stonings and whippings as well as the damage from being ship wrecked do not give him a great TV presence and with that voice radio is out as well.

He does good written communication work, but so much would have to be edited because of name calling and politically incorrect speech. He is so backward because he deals with peripheral issues like hair and how to behave at a church supper where communion is also offered that are non-essential to salvation so we must not be dogmatic about such things. After all, in essentials unity and in non-essentials, charity is a biblical mandate or is it?

What? He says women are to be submissive and cannot be pastors? Oh, if we ever published that in the Jerusalem Apostolic Times we would be sued and have massive protests outside our door! What is this nonsense of him wanting his young apprentice, Timothy, pastoring a church? Why, the lad is only 21! Paul knows that you cannot even be a member of the Sanhedrin until you are thirty and then only if you are married. Single and 21, what is Paul thinking?

If Paul would have a hard time finding a ministry what would the fishermen in the group do? Rough edged, burley, minimally educated fishermen would be out the door if they even got an interview. Yea, even Jesus based on His earthly background would have a hard time. I mean, a carpenter with a controversial heritage that creates unrest in the community. He takes on the PhDs of the Sanhedrin and says so many disparaging things about these pillars of the community and spiritual leaders. He would not be a boon to our donations as He started out with thousands of followers and then He ran most of them off with His deep theology so that only a relative handful remain. There is a rumor that He was under the scrutiny of the government as well. After all, His cousin challenged the government to the point of losing his head!

Did Jesus have a proven track record for His three years of ministry? Yes, He fed thousands, but in the end was deserted by nearly everyone. One of His own inner circle denied Him three times. He had no home or steady income so you cannot run a background check to see if He was fiscally responsible. He had no formal education yet He silenced the intelligentsia much like Amos did to the royal priesthood of his day.

Paul said that God has chosen the weak, the base and the foolish and very few of the people the world would consider good candidates were among them. Yet, we push men who might be the next Amos, Peter, Phillip or even Johns out the door because they do not meet men’s criteria and thus we hinder the power of God, sap the strength of the Body and may even damn some to Hell that those men were called to bring to Christ because they cannot relate to the Christian upper crust, but need someone on their level or background. We have made most of our ministers fit the characteristics of the minority not the majority of who God used to turn the world upside down.

We have also made it so expensive to be “prepared” for ministry that if man makes it through the maze and gets his cheese degrees and pedigree then it is tough for him to find a place that can afford him. Not that he is greedy of filthy lucre, but he has debts and oddly enough he got into debt to serve the God who said to avoid debt as the borrower is servant/slave to the lender. Imagine that!

Ultimately, if they find their position and achieve some modicum of success they are on a tightrope trying not to fall to the left because of pride or fall off to the right because of discouragement. That brings me to the main thrust of my message. And someone said, “Finally! I wondered where he was going.” To understand a problem you sometimes have to go back a good piece or notice the twists and turns on the road that gets you there.

The temptation affects not only the “professional” ministers, but also the volunteer ministers in the churches. After a person serves for a time they look at their ministry and if they are well compensated either in “packages” with retirement plans, book allowances, travel expenses, etc. they may think they have succeeded and the pride thing starts to kick in.

If the person is a volunteer, but he gets his rewards from the respect of the congregation, many mentions of his name from the pulpit and awards at yearly banquets then he/she is also in danger of pride and having to suffer with the other people who are not as high up on the rung as they are getting a stick neck by having their nose stuck up in the air.

The other end of the spectrum is the despair and burn out where there is no “personnel packet” and the accolades are not coming in as frequently as desired or not at all. If most ministers are honest, this is the norm and the other situation is rare. No one likes to be in such a position, but it is probably the place where we will become more dependent upon God’s power and not ours. We base too much on current trends rather than biblical example.

The author and finisher of our faith was deserted when, from a human perspective, at the time He could have used more friends. Paul followed the same pattern. Demas and others forsook him and indeed he was alone at his first hearing at Caesar’s court. He had to defend his apostleship to the Corinthians and he led them to Christ. If you look at his defense in 2 Corinthians 11 you will not only see the irony of the conflict but also a list of things he endured that are not on anyone’s pastoral bucket list.
Ministry is often thankless, unappreciated, under compensated or not all, hard, tiring and while you joy in the Lord and are thankful to be able to serve you will not always be happy. Joy and happiness are two different things. Read church history and especially Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and it is easy to see the error of prosperity preaching, Indeed, that may also reflect on the condition of the modern church when Menno Simons said that the true church will always be persecuted. We have it far too easy, but that is changing.

The cure for the pride factor and the discouragement factor can be found in the following passage.

Luke 17:7-10

7 But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
8 And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?
9 Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.
10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. KJV

Because we are so independent, competitive and needing affirmations, accolades, etc, we develop a wrong view of many things but especially Christian service. It is, after all, not about you. You cannot demand your rights because you are bought with a price you are not your own. That makes you a servant and hence the relevance of the passage. You may say, this lad was a slave and that is true but so are you. Yes, we wear many hats. We are sons, joint-heirs, ambassadors, witnesses, saints and sometimes martyrs, but we are also slaves/servants.

Note in the passage, not one word of praise comes from the master to the servant. Everything the servant did was expected. We want praise because we showed up for work and did what we contracted for when we accepted the salary and benefits. After that, the company does not have to do anything else after that. The deal was cut. They do not have to give you raises, bonuses or enhance your benefits. They offered you A, B and C and you said you would take it. That is the end of story. You are no longer happy with that then get another job not a picket sign or union steward.

This lad was one hard working fellow. It seems he is the only servant so he does the field work and is the chef and kitchen crew. That makes me tired just thinking about it, but then I am spoiled by a forty hour work week from Monday to Friday. I try to avoid overtime as really most of it goes to taxes and at my age, my time is more important to me than the little bit extra I may get.

This fellow did not have such luxuries. He worked from sun up until sun down six days a week with only the Sabbath off, but he had to work harder on Friday so that there would be no need for manual labor on Saturday. They did not have refrigeration or microwaves so that would have been a grand challenge. As far as we can tell, this lad got no real perks. The master did not even say, “Hey, take the night off we’ll call for take out.” He busted his hump in the hot fields plowing and herding cattle to come in and do the meal, dishes and whatever else the master desired before he went to bed. I picture him finishing up the dishes and having a start on breakfast about 2300 and maybe falling into his rack by midnight only to have to be back up by 0 Dark 30 to start all over again. Y’all want to apply for his job? I doubt it.

After all of this, Jesus said that when you have done all that you do say that you are an unprofitable servant. So, even if God really wanted you to spend all the time and money to get numerous degrees you have nothing to be proud of because you only did what you were supposed to do so what thanks do you have coming? According to this passage, none. You are not to lord it over God’s flock so don’t strut in expecting them to sweep and bow. Some will be impressed, but many others will be looking at other things about you and will not give two cents for your papers. If that will hurt your ego you may need another calling to business or something else because you are missing the point. The congregation owes you nothing and are not required to feed your ego.

I worked once with a fellow that went to bible college and came back ordained and his home church members treated him no differently and it ate his lunch. He forgot the passage where Jesus says that a prophet is not without honor save in his own country and in his own house. All the titles in front of your name and alphabets after your name are to be used like Paul used his Roman citizenship or his Jewish resume. They get you a hearing with folks who would not hear you without them. Other than that, you should forget them if you can. Use them sparingly, if you must, but do not be infatuated with them. That infatuation will bring you down. After you have used them all that you need to use them you are still an unprofitable servant for you only did what you were required to do. There is nothing above and beyond the call of duty for your duty is all you can do so expect nothing and you will not be surprised.

For the brethren who get depressed, the answer is really the same for you. The master in the parable did not thank the servant so do what you are supposed to do and let it go. Some may want to protest and say that Christ gives rewards and blessings. Indeed, He does. However, many of the people you will minister to will not be Christians and even those who are will not necessarily act like Him. Besides, much of what we will receive we get when we get to glory. You may get some awards and thank yous. It is fine if you do, but don’t let them be your focus. He is the focus and His mission is the focus. All else is trivial.

In Mark, Jesus said we would get a hundredfold of what we give up for His sake, but that return is not always in the way we wish or think. I am an only child and yet, I have plenty of mothers, fathers, etc in Christ. I have two biological children, but I have some kids that would think of me as an uncle, if not a father. My son once said I was the coolest Dad in the church according to his friends so some of them might have let me adopt them. 😉 I can think of some houses in various places where I would be welcome for at least three days. If a prophet stayed more then three he was a false prophet, but a few folks might even want me to hang around for a few more days.

You may have a great resume, but so what? Do not expect any accolades or even blessings from God as you think you should receive. You may be wanting something far less than He wants to give you or even something that you would find out later is not a blessing should He give it you. Whatever gifts He has given you use them to your fullest extent as the day is coming when no man can work and it is your duty to all that can do and be thankful that Jesus loves even the unprofitable servant. That is who He uses the one who abandons himself to do the will and work of Christ expecting nothing and being humble enough to know without Christ, he is nothing. Maranatha!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s