A few years ago when I felt God leading me to start my blog, I had big plans. In 2012 He had led me to a small rural church where I started discipling under the Pastor and eventually started leading a women’s Bible study group. I was determined to grow the group, so we did mailers and I went around and placed announcements on people’s car windshields. I put up posters around town and regularly posted Facebook announcements. Our church wasn’t growing, not one visitor in almost 3 years, but I had determined in my heart that I was going to grow it, even if that meant we had a church full of women. Besides, I figured I had “a lot to offer God”, and I had all sorts of innovative ideas.
When I started the blog, I was ready to market it, advertise it and promote it. God had given me the gift of writing and I was ready to use it for His glory….and mine. I could easily write on topics that were captivating and engaging. I could easily capitalize on the human tendency toward emotional appeal and prostitute my creativity toward cultural conformity. I could easily weave together familiar culture and just enough Jesus to make it marketable. But God said “No”, and fortunately He helped me recognized it for the common temptation it was, and is, for many in ministry.
When I first started this blog, God laid on my heart that I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone that I was writing it. There would be no promoting, no advertising, no marketing. He also laid on my heart that the only thing I would ever write on here was what He laid on my heart to write. I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve started and never finished, or finished and trashed. I can’t tell you how many of these articles I’ve published and been hesitant to publish, for fear of what people might think. For the first six months I wrote silently, the only person who knew was my Pastor. For those six months I often whined to God, feeling like it was pointless and a waste of time to be pouring my heart out to no one. Then one day, after six months of obedience, I felt led to put a link to an article on my Facebook page. Ironically enough, it was to an article that I didn’t feel comfortable sharing. Another hurdle of obedience. And so it’s been ever since– one hurdle of obedience after the other. God’s way, God’s timing, God’s purposes.
The reason I’m sharing this is because of an article I read this morning about Benny Hinn’s nephew. He tells about growing up in the worldly fruits of wealth and fame that come from the prosperity gospel. He tells of the extravagant lifestyle afforded to those whose ministry is based on emotional appeal and capitalizing upon the human tendencies of desperation, greed, and naiveté. He tells how the truth of the real Gospel message of meekness and humility and rejection mercifully brought the whole facade of the prosperity gospel crashing down in his life. He tells of coming out of the confusion of the prosperity gospel and into the clarity of God’s true vision for His people, which is evangelism and discipleship that “transforms lost souls into found saints.”
Many of us are already aware of the illegitimacy of the prosperity gospel, so this comes as no new news. However, what many of us are not aware of is the illegitimacy of any ministry that seeks the road of conformity and appeal. There are many ministries which have thousands of “followers” because they are well-marketed, emotionally engaging, culturally relevant, or intellectually captivating. The raw, bitter, and unmitigated truth which most won’t admit, is that this draw toward being appealing is a temptation of everyone in ministry. We are all susceptible to the draw of appeal, which ultimately ends up as self-promotion disguised as Gospel promotion. Everyone in ministry feels the pull to “grow the church for God.” But what everyone in ministry doesn’t admit, is the tempting pull to also grow a following. What everyone in ministry doesn’t admit, is the temptation to validate their ministry by how many people seem to follow or listen to them.
But God doesn’t need us to sell His Gospel. He doesn’t need us to make it appealing, or marketable, or popular, or well-liked. If truth be told, God really doesn’t even need us to grow His church because He is fully capable of doing it Himself by the power of His Spirit. However, God chooses to use us for this task. He chooses, in His wisdom and grace, to work through us, for whatever reasons known only to Him. God doesn’t need our big plans and innovative ideas and the proven track-record of effective evangelistic methodologies. I’ve said this before and I will say it again, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done is walk away from my own plans to grow God’s kingdom and submit to His. The deception of our own plans is so subtle, so reasonable, so justified. As far as deception goes, the devil can’t hold a candle to self-deception. With self-deception, the enemy is in our own camp. It is the treasonous coup of our own misguided will.
What I have learned over the last five years since God called me into ministry, is that humility, meekness, patience, perseverance, and total, utter dependence upon God are the fruits of those who are truly called to Christian ministry. I have learned that rejection and ridicule are the markers of those who speak genuine, soul-stirring truths. I have learned that you cannot measure the validity of the ministry to which you have been called by how many people who agree with you. Jesus said no disciple is greater than his teacher, nor servant greater than his master (Matt 10:24), and He preached more sermons at the dinner tables of sinners than He did to a stadium full of saints.
He said the world hated Him first, therefore it will hate us too (John 15:18). He said we are sheep among wolves (Matt 10:16), chosen out of the world to bring a message of salvation and hope that would be scorned and rejected by most because it is wholly unappealing to the intrinsic nature of sinful man. A message that reminds us we are sinners who have no hope in this world or the next, without intimate devotion to Jesus Christ. A message that demands the perpetual denial of self and of all the things the world tries to convince us we “deserve.” A message that chastises us when we wander away from the holiness that God desires in those who follow Him. A message that turns a citizen of this world into an exile and sojourner. A message that magnifies our flaws and weaknesses, and yet the message itself being the only answer to fixing them. A message of hope, a message of humility, a message of things to let go of, but of great joy to come. A message that cannot be sold and does not need to be marketed. Because it is a message from God Himself, with the power to transform the human soul.
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout…” (1 Peter 1:1)
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)
“Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” (Luke 10:3)
“Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” (John 13:6)
“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” (Isaiah 53:3)
“For many will come in My name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many…Then they will hand you over to be persecuted and killed, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray and hate one another, and many false prophets will arise and mislead many.” (Matt 24:5,9-11)
“Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” (Matt 7:15)