Ministry: It’s Not About You

by Mark Lauterbach

“Of all the silly notions of ministry making the rounds, there is none sillier than the self-important notion that our leadership is what makes the difference.

This idea is rooted in a culture that prizes technique above character, and skill above godliness.  The idea is not rooted in Scripture.

The “leadership model” of ministry is rooted in the American success model.  That is why we read the books of the successful, and believe there are techniques that secure success.  We apply that to the Christian realm.  Don’t we tend to honor the men who have large churches?  Don’t we hang around them for tips on how we can nurture a larger church?  or how we can be the kind of leaders they are?

It is true, God uses us as we lead.  But where in the Bible do we get a focus on the leadership gifts of men?  More still, what do we find where there are exceptional men?  We find what seems to be failures.

  • Moses failed to bring the people into the land.
  • Joshua failed to take the whole land.
  • David experienced years of hardship from Saul, then years of suffering for his own folly.
  • Jeremiah preached for decades with little fruit.
  • The Lord of glory himself spoke as no man had ever spoken, walked with God in perfect obedience, worked wonders and signs — and was rejected by all, abandoned by his friends, and died a pauper.
  • Paul was a “master builder” (1 Cor 3) but two of the churches where he spent the most time had the most problems (Corinth and Ephesus).  As a matter of fact, here is the fruit of his exceptional skill: moral compromise, doctrinal defection, apostasy, and division.

Yes, we lead.  But our leadership does not guarantee results. There is no redeeming power in our leadership.

We are called to be faithful where God plants us.  God sees success differently.  The first will be last and the last first.  We are servants, mere earthen vessels, clay pots, brown paper bags.

Even secular history tells is that there have been great leaders with great ideas who were rejected in their time. It also tells of men of average ability who prospered through no exceptional quality of their own.

In my early years as a Christian, I knew a man who got it right.  He was the man who started our college fellowship.  He was 80 when I met him.  He was single by choice, lived in a tiny apartment, ate the simplest foods, and was as uncool as they come.  But he persisted in doing the right things for years.

For forty years he had met students and told them about Christ.  There were dozens of men and women who were brought to faith through this man whom no one knew.

He would not talk about himself or what he had done.  Sometimes, when we heard of a leader in business or politics or education that was his son in the faith, he would change the subject.  he would tell us to keep our eyes on the Lord.

One day, we asked him to talk about the most fruitful years of ministry he had enjoyed.  Certain classes of graduates had gone on into missions or leadership in significant ways.  We inquired: What group of students did he look back on with particular joy?  What year of ministry was the most successful?

His answer I will not forget: “I can’t tell you because their race is not over.”

Let’s quit celebrating great leaders, and instead, celebrate long term faithfulness.  It’s not your ministry and it’s not about you.”

by Mark Lauterbach,

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