Inside The Heart Of A Minister

Phil 2:17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.

Did you know that only 1 in 20 people who start out in ministry, last till retirement age? That means that 19 out of 20 get slaughtered out there in the mission field. Oh there may not be physical blood flowing from the pulpit and out into the streets, but emotional blood? Our towns and cities are stained with it.

Rocky is such a great movie…but by the 5th movie, the guy has brain damage from taking so many hits. At what point does Rocky need to hang up the gloves? How many more hits can he take?

Paul says “I am being poured out as a drink offering,” which gives the picture of “wasting” a drink by pouring it out on the ground, never to be consumed by humans, but in essence, it is a gift to God. It’s like Mary who “poured out” her costly oils on Jesus’ feet while Judas called it a waste.

Drink offerings were common as one of many offerings in the Old Testament, and here Paul likens his life to being “poured out” and “wasting it all” for those he ministered to. He could have been anything. He could have done anything. He was one of the brightest minds in human history, yet he poured his life out on the Gentiles.

And then Paul gets REALLY REAL in II Corinthians 12:15 when he says, “And I will very gladly SPEND and BE SPENT for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.”

I have preached to young people since 2001. I was 19 when I was foolish enough to answer the call into ministry. I said, “God use me however, wherever, whenever, why-ever! I give you the right to mess with my life.” I often said since hearing such poignant preachers at Teen Mania something like “Spend me to the last drop!” And that’s been my phrase every since.

“Life is a sponge,” I tell my college students, “Don’t let there be anything left over when you’re done with this life!”

You may notice that it’s hard for your pastor to receive a compliment? Or they may brush it off and say, “well, it’s all God,” or something like that. The fact is, scar tissue makes it difficult to allow a compliment to enter his heart. 

You may notice ministers being “jaded” and wonder why does he seem so cynical? Do they need to go pray more?

Probably…

Shouldn’t they be the banner-wielders of joy, peace, and love in the Holy Spirit?

Yup.

Does he seem a bit aloof or jumpy? I mean, shouldn’t a pastor be more of a “people person?”

Sure…

Why does he carry the weight of the world behind his eyes? Shouldn’t he trust God more?

Maybe…

Have you ever walked through an “Old Folks Home?” It doesn’t matter how much you love your grandpa or grandma in there, NOBODY WANTS TO END UP THERE! Nobody is saying, “dude, I can’t wait till I’m in the Old Folks home where I can’t remember who I am, or who my family is, where someone has to shave me because I can’t move my shaking hands, and someone has to change my diaper as I poop myself. That’s the life!”

In fact, we all secretly hope however we die, that it happens quickly so we can avoid such horrible deaths. We spend our lives trying to ignoring the inevitable future of us all.

As you grow older, your body loses is viscosity, skin droops, bones crumble, knees and hips have to be replaced, and old football injuries haunt you to your dying day…reminders of consequences from “pushing through the pain”…a cost that the seventeen-year-old-mind could never calculate in the moments of glory under Friday Night Lights.

And in the same way, we can never know the cost of “laying it all on the line” when we started this thing as young ministers…when they laid their hands on us and said, “Go forth into all the world and preach the Gospel.”

It’s like the wedding day.

Then Rocky gets hit….over and over and over again. And It has a way of changing you. But we ministers must understand that this is what we meant when we said, “however, wherever, whenever, why-ever. God I give you the right to mess with my life!”

What if when you said, “to the last drop,” you were, in essence, saying, “God, the world is evil. People are going to devour me like they did you. And whether its physical beating by the hands of the Taliban in the Middle East, or emotional wounds by an angry elder who holds influence in that small-town church, or the disciples who turn their backs on me again and again and again, or watching so many people die…so many funerals over so many years…God, I still give you the right to SPEND me however, why-ever, whenever, wherever you want.”

What if the beauty of “the last drop” is, in fact, quite ugly?

In our culture, “Hard=BAD.” Last week, a young lady who is about to get married said, “Man, every time I ask a couple about marriage they say, ‘Marriage is so hard!’ Then they go on and on about how hard it is, and then say, ‘but it’s worth it!’”

All of us older married people around the table chuckled. We just understand something she can’t yet…that marriage IS hard, AND GOOD! If you’re definition of GOOD, is EASY, then you’ll never experience marriage, or ministry, or children, or anything worth anything at all. You’ll miss out on the BEST.

Paul gave up the prestige of being that awesome Hebrew scholar…a position he’d worked toward his whole life…to go spend his life on the Gentiles, and ultimately be killed by them. Many would have called that a waste. “Couldn’t you have done something better with you life, Paul?”

But he did it while REJOICING because just like a drink offering that is poured out to God, Paul saw this service as a gift to God.

Paul continues in Philippians 2:18 “For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.” Here Paul says, basically, “I know this will cost me EVERYTHING, and YET I’m rejoicing and I want you to rejoice with me!” WHY? Because it’s needed, and it’s WORTH IT!

So what do I do with all of this? 

 

  1. Try to manage your expectations:

This goes for Christians and for Ministers. When battles rage, know, this is not something strange, but the way life is supposed to be. As I’ve always said, “The beauty is in the struggle.” Change what you can. BE salt and light in the world, but at the same time 1 Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, don’t think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you…” and Jesus said in John 16:33 “…In this world you will have many troubles. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Hebrews 11:32-38 says that some were delivered from lions, and yet others were sawn in two.

Big idea? Philippians 4:10-14 “…I have learned to be CONTENT whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

So manage those expectations. And that leads me to the second thing we have to do…

  1. Have grace on that old pastor:

You never know what all he’s been through. You see a snapshot…maybe at the end of his life when he’s near the end of what he has to give. Be gentle on that old warrior, for he has fought many battles. He’s buried so many people he’d learned to call “friend.” He has talked people out of suicide. He’s pled with people to work through marriage issues, just to watch it end in divorce. He’s poured his life out only to be rejected again and again. He’s been there for others always, but rarely has someone who is there for him. People just don’t think like that. He’s supposed to be the one who has it all together. But the worst thing he’s probably gone though is watching people who once walked close to God turn their backs and walk away from the faith. Those are wounds he never quite heals from. Those follow him to his dying day.

When that minister flinches, it’s not much different than when my dog Heidi flinches. When we bought her from PetSmart, it was apparent that she’d been beaten because every time I coiled up her leash, she would tremble and hide.

It’s not that minister’s fault that he flinches and get socially awkward and eyes the exits, looking for a safe place to drop his guard. Ministers need a safe place like everyone does. Sometimes as the spokesmen of God, people take out their anger on us like we are God because “we can take it.” Sometimes we can’t. Or because we are His ambassadors. So be easy on that old pastor.

  1. Change your definition of success:

What if success doesn’t look as much like “having your stuff together,” and having all the answers, and looks a little more like the soldier who left it all on the field, marred and bloody…perhaps a bit jumpy? Or maybe it looks like the old and crumbling man in the rest home who has spent everything he had to give on the worthy cause of Christ?

Maybe old and janky is a sign of success rather than failure…Maybe it is a sign of being poured out as a drink offering to the Lord…to the last drop.

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