Being servants where God has put us and being content to serve Him there, is the theme of this post from Mark Brewster, LI Staff Oasis Host in Lewiston, ID.
“One of the dangers of living in our American consumer culture is the temptation to view the Church more as a business or corporation than the Body of Christ. That perspective has the potential for a pastor to see himself as a company employee who wants to climb the corporate ladder of success, with increased responsibilities and “bigger and better” churches along the way.
Unchecked by the Spirit of God, this viewpoint can leave us with an inner discontentment and restlessness, as we keep an eye out for the next bigger and better ministry opportunity to open up.
Furthermore, it is the birthplace of envy, as we emotionally compare and compete with pastors around us who are either moving up the ladder faster than us, or those we consider to be below us on the ladder.
Don’t misunderstand: Sometimes the Lord leads us to a new ministry assignment. And there’s nothing wrong with ambition; unless, of course, it is selfish ambition which the Bible gives clear warning about, in regard to the kind of destruction it brings into our own personal life as well as the lives of others.
In 1 Corinthians 4:1, the Apostle Paul gives insight into all of this when he says that people ought to “regard us as servants of Christ”. As you might already know, the word “servant” here is the Greek word “huperetes”, literally “under-rower”. It originally referred to a galley slave in an ancient Roman warship who had to instantly obey orders, and do his part to get the boat to the destination decided upon by his captain. Later, the word came to mean “an assistant, one who is a subordinate acting under another’s direction”.
Maybe a way to paraphrase this verse is: I’m just here to do the grunt work to get this ship to shore, the port that my Captain has designated.
The key responsibility of this kind of servant, according to 1 Corinthians 4:2, is to prove oneself faithful. In other words, we can be counted upon. That means, among other things, that we allow our roots to grow deep where the Lord Jesus plants us to minister, faithfully serving Him in that place among those people for as long as He wants us there. We’re not worried about where we are on the ladder, because we are too deeply settled where He has us.
Of course, there is always the possibility He will uproot us, and lead us to a different ministry. But the mindset is: This isn’t a steppingstone to the bigger and better.
This was captured well by a German Lutheran pastor, Friedrich von Bodelschwingh (we’ll just call him Freddy Von B) who wrote the following words in a letter to his son, when he was about to begin his first pastoral ministry assignment in the city of Dortmund:
‘I beg you, do not look upon Dortmund as a steppingstone, but rather say: Here I shall stay as long as it pleases God; if it be his will, until I die. Look upon every child, those confirmed, and every member of the congregation as if you will have to give account for every soul on the day of the Lord Jesus. Every day commit all these human souls from the worst and weakest of hands, namely, your own, into the best and strongest of hands. Then you will be able to carry on your ministry not only without care but also with joy overflowing and joyful hope.‘
I trust that God will give each of us the grace to bloom where He has planted us!”