I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but working for a church is not the most glamorous job in the world. I mean, the pay is great and all (note sarcasm) but people don’t always appreciate you, and it can be downright exasperating at times. I was talking with a man the other day who was describing to me the frustration he experienced in negotiating and politicking with members of his church. He used to be a youth minister, and he recounted one situation in which he had two different sets of parents request that he do two totally opposing things. One set came to him and said that God was commanding him to separate the youth by gender, but keep all the ages together since boys and girls can distract one another from learning. Another set of parents came to him and said that God was commanding him to separate the youth by grade, but keep the genders together. Two messages from God, two completely different commands.
The problem with these situations, which happen a lot in churches, is that you can’t win. In a situation like this, no matter what you do, you are blatantly disobeying God in the eyes of someone in your church. And this is no small matter. It’s not that you are merely disagreeing with them about whether to serve OJ or apple juice at Sunday school—from their perspective, you are near to committing outright heresy. No matter how hard you try, someone is going to think you are in direct disobedience to God.
This is the future I face as I move toward taking a job in a church. And I would be lying if I said it wasn’t daunting. I am a people pleaser. I love to make people like me, and I hate to disappoint people. So, I must therefore decide at this point in my life why it is I do ministry. Am I in ministry because my family and friends think I’m a better person because of it, or because I feel called by God? Is there something about working for a church that makes me feel slightly holier than other people, or is it part of a greater vision that God has given me for my life?
Whether we are in ministry or not, these are important questions to occasionally ask ourselves as Christians, because even if we came to Christ for the right reason, it’s easy to forget that reason. It’s easy to begin relishing in the knowledge that everyone thinks you’re a “good person” because you go to church and give to the poor. It’s easy to revel in the praise when people tell your parents how proud they must be for having raised such a nice young man or woman. I love to hear those things. It affirms me in almost every way and makes me feel good about myself.
It is for that reason that going on staff with a church is a scary prospect, because that praise on which my confidence so greatly depends might be snatched away. Why? Because there’s something about being a visible leader that seems to give people the freedom to criticize you, gossip to others about how you could do your job better, and slander you behind your back. No, working for a church isn’t all bad, but it can be a lion’s den at times. Especially when you tell people things they don’t want to hear, and challenge them in areas of their lives in which they don’t want to be challenged. Then the claws come out. No longer will I be the sweet little Christian girl that everyone loves. No longer can I do no wrong. Yes, there will still be people in my life who love me, but not all. And those who don’t will make it very clear.
And thus I am left with the question: Why am I in ministry? Why am I a Christian at all? For the sake of my pride, or for the sake of Christ? If I am in it for the sake of Christ, then those criticisms should mean nothing to me. I can weather the storm no matter its strength because my confidence rests on the unshakeable foundation of Christ. But if I am doing it for the praise and the glory, then I won’t last long at all.
So as I embark on this newest stage in my life, it is time for me to set my ego aside or else I fear it will drive my ministry, rather than Christ. You cannot serve two masters, so it’s time to choose.