SNARES IN MINISTRY
There are five little-spoken-of snares for anyone called of God:
- The obsession with numbers – “numbering the people. (1 Samuel 24:10) The kingdom work is “not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.” If you only have 5, preach like it was 5,000. Stop head counting, it is a trap. “And the Lord added to the churches daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) There will be many saints with great rewards whose churches never reached the mega dream, but they labored without ceasing in obedience no matter what the numbers.
- Corporate ambition. We rarely admit it, but we lust and envy after those with the big thing, the media attention, the best-selling book, the 24/7 church bookings. We must crucify what our flesh longs to sanctify and justify. Be content with where God has placed you and what He has given you to do. Be faithful in the little, and deal cruelly with the breaking of the commandment to not covet your neighbor’s things. (Exodus 20:17)
- The quest for financial success.
I am not against money or prosperity, But the quest for it in ministry a dangerous thing. Paul said he had learned how to be abased and abound, but in all things to be content. You will face times of material blessing and times of difficulty. It can never be the point of the work or the center of the message, and it is so easy to justify our cravings for the material by using certain scriptures. Tread lightly, friend. Paul declared the whole counsel of God. Read the last part of Hebrews 11, not just the first part of it. “He chooses our inheritance for us.”
- Power over people. Friend, you handle the Word of God, and that is a sobering thing. Anyone who gets up in front of anyone – especially these days – with even a little bit of persuasive ability or charisma, has the ability to convince and sway people with their words. When you are in ministry, you may have both the persuasive charisma AND the anointing of the Holy Spirit. This should make you tremble in fear. For we will be accountable for every word that comes out of our mouths, and most believers are trusting, innocent and for the most part unskilled in the Word. (That is why discipleship is so crucial.) Those in youth ministry need to be especially careful because there is an added vulnerability in our young sheep that requires you to understand that EVERY.SINGLE.WORD. is heard, and mostly respected, and in many cases, remembered for life – especially the words we speak in a personal or “out of the raised platform” setting – just in every day fellowship and conversation. Remember that life and death are in the power of the tongue.
It is possible to get a taste of power when you see people responding to your word, and/or His Word. I have known people who became spiritual dictators and monsters because they forgot where they stopped and God began, and began to think anything they said or did was okay. They wrecked many lives, because the lust for spiritual power is even more dangerous than the lust for political or social power, because we can so easily spiritually justify it. Don’t do it. Tell yourself every day and many times a day, “I am a foot washer, I am a servant. I am not here to be served.” Always remember, as Paul said, that “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) Better you never enter a platform again than to think it is your talents, your abilities or your power with words that got you there.
- The power of prestige.
Few will talk about it, but in modern evangelical ministry, it’s not about what you know, but WHO you know. As a young minister years ago, it was like that as well. I watched in Christian church, media and music circles as people climbed over people to get in the “inner circle” of those who could promote them or their ministries, and often give them bragging rights to name-drop at other Christian gatherings. I saw it as I began to “rise to the top of the Christian dog heap,” realized it was no different from the Hollywood world I knew about from growing up in Southern California, and asked God to drop me down to the bottom of the ladder if necessary rather than get my walk ruined by lusting after “being with the big boys and girls.” It is the height of spiritual idolatry. Crucify it.
Gene Edwards said, “Many pray for the power of God. More every year. Those prayers sound powerful, sincere, godly, and without ulterior motive. Hidden under such prayer and fervor, however, are ambition, a craving for fame, the desire to be considered a spiritual giant. The person who prays such a prayer may not even know it, but dark motives and desires are in his heart…in your heart.”
I have given in to each of the above traps at one time or another in my time in ministry, and God mercifully, and is still mercifully delivering me from each one. It takes guts to examine your heart and ask Him to show you what’s really there. You may not like it. You may turn out much better than I did in terms of not having these snares. And you may also not even be willing to recognize them in yourself. I pray that is not the case. God needs men and women of faith that will rise above base motives and the “spiritual” snares and become true humble servants of Jesus that have no hidden motive in their calling and desire to fulfill His will.
God bless you all and keep you under the shadow of His wing,