You see here Paul has the most impressive of resumes and every reason to be supremely self-confident—he has the right background, the right education, the right skills.
But he calls all of these things a “loss” and “rubbish,” compared to knowing Christ. And the word he uses there for “rubbish” is actually much more graphic in the Greek—it is actually the word for human excrement … or “sh*t,” if you will pardon my Greek.
So we were never supposed to find our confidence and self-assurance in our abilities, even if we acknowledge them as God-given. Instead, our confidence is in Christ and His abilities alone. And so this place I find myself in—stripped of confidence in myself and my skills—is not a curse but exactly where I should have been all along.
You see, I haven’t found the silver lining to a failed ministry—I have discovered the heart of all ministry.
No longer do I strive to be a multifaceted pastor who is self-assured and charismatic and able to get things done.
I want to be a one-trick pony, that pony being living and preaching the Gospel in any and every way that I can. I don’t feel this makes me less effective as a pastor, but more, because I have been simplified, honed and sharpened—any fancy, gilded edges have been smoothed over and given true purpose and direction. I may have little confidence in my ability to lead or change or transform, but that is perfectly OK because it is ultimately Christ who accomplishes such things, and I just have to make him known to the best of my ability.
So I’m not done doing ministry—I feel like I am just getting started.
But this has also given me some pause as I look for new work. I have yet to read a job listing that made any reference to “passion for Christ and for the Gospel” anywhere in its description.
Of course, I realize the need of churches to be practical in their expectations for their pastor, and I’m sure most of these churches just assume every pastor has such a passion (which is not the wisest assumption to make). But maybe this betrays something altogether more dangerous—that churches and the Christians who make them up follow more of a corporate model than an apostolic one.
What does it say about us and our understanding of “ministry” that the first and only stated expectations of leaders are duties they must fulfill? What does it say when job descriptions for pastors look exactly like job descriptions for company managers, or CEOs? If we expect such things from our leaders, won’t we in turn expect the same from ourselves?
Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but I have a feeling more than a few of us have seen such a dynamic take hold at our churches and need to soberly reconsider if that is really what God wants from us.
As for me, I am looking for a job description that says something along these lines: “Must consider all things a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus.” That is the only job description I am qualified for and am interested in.