Who Are You Trying to Please?

(From Self-consciousness to God-consciousness)

1978cadillaceldoradoAt the time, it was a new luxury car.  It was a car that I could only dream of owning.  The owner was a wealthy man in our small church. I was a newly married, young preacher.  That morning, as I walked out of our church building, I could see him already sitting behind the wheel of his parked car, puffing on a big cigar.

As I walked by his car, I waved to him.  His window slowly came down.  He glared at me and sternly said, “Let’s don’t talk about race anymore!”

That morning I had preached a sermon and at some point had said something about race and the way we treat one another.  As I recall, I spoke regarding the way we as Christians are called to treat others, regardless of ethnic group.

Apparently this man did not like what I said.  This was a new experience for me.  I had never had someone immediately snap at me like this regarding what was just said in a sermon.   I responded by saying something like, “I was just applying the message of the text that I was preaching this morning.”

I thought about his remark throughout the day.  I knew he was used to having his way.  I also knew that he gave more money on Sunday morning than anyone else and that our small church was impacted by his gift.  I reflected on what I had said in the sermon and genuinely believed that what I said was appropriate.

On one level his comment was about race but it actually was about much more.  His comment forced me to reflect on why I preached and why I did any kind of ministry in the first place.

On that day, I was far from home.  I had graduated from the University of North Texas.  I worked for company for a time before moving to another state.  I wasn’t certain that I wanted to “be a preacher.”  Yet, I had agree a few months earlier, for the first time, to serve as the minister of this church in this small town.  It seemed like one way I could serve God. However, I had no sense that I would serve in this kind of role for decades.

That was an important day for me.  The man’s remark forced me to grapple with what I was doing and why I was serving in this role.

The following are take-aways for me from that day:

  1. Ministry is not a career where one is trying to advance and basically do what is good for one’s own well being.
  2. It is critical to know whom I am called to please, even when it means the displeasure of others.
  3. The focus of ministry is not whether or not I am a “success,” the focus is on the message of the Gospel which is why I do what I do.
  4. Being overly focused on what others think about me will only create an unhealthy self-consciousness instead of robust God-consciousness.

 

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