by Terry Hagedorn
The minister can be his own worst enemy. Moreover, although his intentions might be good, he can actually hinder the work of God, hurt his family, and harm himself. How? By allowing a ministry to become more important than the ministry: By allowing a Christian school, a mission, a camp, a board, or any ministry to become more important than prayer and the ministry of the Word—the ministry.
There are two great biblical examples of this fact: In Exodus 18:3-27 we learn that Moses was hurting his family and was harming his own health.
Moses was about to “wear away”—burn out. He was worn to a frazzle. His nerves were shot. He was trying to administrate or “judge” the affairs of 2.5 million people (more than the population of my home state, West Virginia!) and all by himself! Perhaps he would have continued trying to do it until he dropped dead, if his father-in-law had not said something.
Had Moses not been meek, he would have reacted to the criticism like many preachers do: resentment or rejection of the criticism. (Not all criticism is wrong; you are not always right. In fact, every criticism has at least a kernel of truth.)
If Moses had been like many other ministers, he might have responded, “No one tells me what to do! I am the pastor—right or wrong” (the dictator response). Or, “Well, someone has to do it.” (martyr’s complex). Or, “I don’t have any one to help!” (winner of the whiner award). Or, “I’d rather do it myself than burden someone else with the problem” (winner of the pseudo-Barnabas award). Or, “At least, if I do it myself, I know it will be done right” (hilarious response). Or, “I’d rather just do it than have to put up with someone else complaining about having to do it” (easy-way-out response).
It was not true that there were no others to help Moses. In fact, the remedy involved judges over a thousand, over a hundred, over fifty, and even over ten. Literally, tens of thousands of ready, willing, and able ministers were being kept from a ministry by the naively monopolistic actions and attitudes of Moses.
If there are no workers in your church to take the ministries that you want to add, then have you considered that it might not be God’s will for you to start a particular ministry—at this time? “Where God guides, He provides.” Right?
If there are no workers, don’t just do it yourself. Don’t get ahead of the Lord. He will not follow you! Wait on the Lord. If it is God’s will, there will be workers (Acts 13:1,2)!
Your priority must be the ministry, not a ministry. Even Jethro knew that! “Hearken now unto my voice. I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God: And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do” (Ex. 18:19,20).
The priority for the pastor must first of all be prayer (1 Tim. 2:1) and, secondly, the ministry of the Word. Jethro said it this way: “Bring the causes to God” (prayer). And, “teach them” (the Word) and “the way they must walk” and the “work they must do” (the ministry of the Word).
The Apostles Faced the Same Problem
In the New Testament account (Acts 6:1-7), we have the Apostles focusing narrowly on a single ministry and failing miserably at the job, because they, like Moses, were neglecting “prayer and the ministry of the Word.” The failure of the Apostles to properly emphasize that ministry almost resulted in a church split!
The terms “Greeks” and “Hebrews” both refer to saved Jews. Some Jewish converts were heavily influenced by Hebrew language and culture. Others had taken on the language and culture of the Greeks. The Hellenistic Christian Jews murmured against the Hebraic Christian Jews because the Greek widows were being neglected. This must have seemed like an intentional attack.
Do you think that the Apostles intentionally neglected the Greek widows? No way! Do you think that any minister intentionally wants to mess things up or make problems for himself? Were the Apostles even aware that they were headed for a church split? No way. They were euphoric: the church was being “multiplied,” ministries were being added, everything was just great! Or so they thought.
If, the day before the problem and murmuring surfaced, you had asked the Apostles, “How are things going?” They would have probably answered in unison “Super! The number of disciples is multiplying, so we must be doing everything right! And, we are fulfilling ‘pure religion.’ It’s taking all of our time and resources—physically and spiritually, but we have the ‘Widow’s Ministry’ covered!” I can see it now: charts, graphs, delivery routes, delivery schedules, etc. They had that ministry micro-managed to death. Or so they thought!
From both accounts we learn that, tragically, the minister is usually the last one to realize what he is doing—or not doing—is wrong. Yet, to the credit of Moses and the Apostles, they were not so hard-headed that they would not listen to criticism, seek the Lord’s will, and then correct the problem before there was a catastrophe.
How about you? Are you wearing out—about to faint? Ever known any ministers that wore out? Do you think that all is well; but you are neglecting the ministry of prayer and the Word?
If you don’t want to mess things up:
• Don’t neglect the ministry of prayer and the Word.
• Don’t force ministries upon God. Wait for His leadership. After all, He is God. Right?
• Don’t prevent others from fulfilling their ministry. Let God be God. Let God let others help.
• Don’t reject or resent all criticism.
You’re not perfect. There is only one perfect Shepherd (Pastor) of the church. And you had better get His advice and follow it, or you will be your own worst enemy.
Terry Hagedorn is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Reedsville, WV