Posted on June 13, 2019 by Erin Culleny in Freedom Fighters
Today I might be into rambling a bit. I’m debriefing myself, hopefully for your benefit as well as my own.
I have a problem differentiating between wanting my ministry to be honoring to the Lord and at the same time being appreciated by those to whom I am ministering. I want people to think and say that I was “good.” Is that terrible? I certainly do not want them to think or say that I was terrible or even forgettable. We all know people who are going to speak or sing and we decide we do not want to go to hear that person. I hope I’m not like that. I want to make an impact.
Sometimes I get upset with myself. For example, on occasion I hear people pray, “I don’t want to be seen: hide me behind the cross.” That sounds so spiritual and humbling. But it somehow doesn’t make sense to me. I would rather say, “may Christ be seen in or through me.” I’m not hiding from anyone. Once or twice in my life someone came just to see me (my mother??). Why should I hide behind the pulpit?
Sometimes you get a real shot in the gut by the truth. I will always vividly remember a series of meetings Mary Esther and I participated in probably 40 years ago. I was working full-time, leaving work about 30 minutes early, stopping by to pick up Mary Esther and then driving about an hour and 15 minutes and eating supper in the car in order to get to the church on time. About the third night, as I recall, I said something in introducing my sax solo about not having time to practice and warm-up. The speaker got up (during his message) and made very pointed remarks about offering less than our best (being unprepared) when we minister (preach, sing, etc.). It was not an off-the-cuff remark. He belabored the point. I was really embarrassed. I got it and never forgot it!!!!
With years of experience, it is easy to put together a song service on the spot. Having played many instrumental solos and sung many vocal solos, it is easy to stand up and “perform” with little or no advance notice. Any good pastor might occasionally find himself in a situation when he needs to speak at the last moment for whatever reason. And he can! (I remember speaking to our pastor many years ago after a very fine message asking him how long it took him to prepare it. He said, “about 15 years and 20 minutes.”) But those should be the exceptions, not the norm.
The older I get, the more time I spend in preparation. I do not leaf through the hymnal and select my favorite hymns or gospel songs. I try to have a focused service…everything points to the message and its special emphasis whether it be faith, love, forgiveness, or whatever. Sometimes it is really difficult. I try to plan special music weeks ahead of time so that it is in line with the message. I suspect many people do not even notice it, but I do. Am I doing my best or just taking the easy way out because no one is paying attention anyway?? When I’m preaching, after all of the research, I write it out almost word for word and practice it.
Our present pastor frequently says that every time he enters the sanctuary he feels a heavy burden. I’m certain that is not nerves or butterflies in his stomach. There is nothing he loves more than preaching. What he is saying is that he is going to be God’s spokesperson to hundreds of worshipers in house and thousands around the world via streaming and he wants to get it right! He wants to make an impact. He doesn’t want to “lay and egg” for God!
Further, what can really shock you into reality are the verses that say our works will be tried as by fire: the wood, hay and stubble will be burned away while the gold, silver and precious stones will remain (I Cor. 3:10-15). Or how about casting our trophies at His feet as in, “…til’ my trophies at last I lay down (“Old Rugged Cross”)? What trophies? Do I have any?
How are you gaining your trophies? Most of you are not preachers, teachers, musicians. We have our own set of challenges. But what are your works, trophies, that will be tried as by fire? Will they endure.
So how is all this resolved? The best I can determine is that it has to do with motive. Am I doing whatever it is to show off, to call attention to myself? I want to do my best and I want men’s approval. But is that the ulterior motive? I think perhaps the highest compliment might be something like this, “I remember the message you preached, or the illustration you gave, or the song you sang because it really spoke to me in a way I will always remember. It is making a difference in my life.” Just like the preacher who hung me out to dry many years ago. I am so grateful for that lesson. I’ll never forget it because it made a difference in my life.
Written By Neil Fichthorn: Rev. Neil Fichthorn is a seasoned conference and camping servant having served at Gull Lake Bible Conference, Sandy Cove Ministries as President, and an interim Executive Director at Pinebrook Bible Conference. He also served in church music for decades as a choir director and arranger. He has been Bill Welte’s mentor and friend for over 45 years.
Think About This: “You must keep all earthy treasures out of your heart, and let Christ be your treasure, and let Him have your heart.” `- Charles Spurgeon
This Week’s Verse to Memorize: But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. – Galatians 4:4-5
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the doctrinal and theological views held by America’s Keswick.