Last Wednesday night I concluded a lesson series with our students entitled “LOVE YOU: Learning to love who you are” Our study focused in on what a Christ-centered self-image looks like; and how the way we see ourselves affects our relationship to God and others. Our key verse was Psalm 139:1-16 specifically verses 13 & 14: “For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well.”
We had such an overwhelming positive response to this study from our students and their parents. The idea came from some research I did that revealed that the number one thing that Students struggle with on a day to day basis is their self-image. So many mistakes made by teenagers today can be linked back to trying to compensate for a poor self-image. They do so many things to feel accepted and loved, and to impress other people. Each week our study lead back to the truth that if my self worth is based on anything other than my relationship with Jesus Christ, then it is not a healthy self worth. When I asked him for a statement to use for this study, nationally known youth communicator, Tony Nolan, responded with “What is true about you, is what God says about you.” There is so much truth wrapped up in that statement. The only true things about me are what God says about me; not what my friends say is true about me, or what the media says is true about me, or even what my family says is true about me. What is true, is what God says is true.
As I prepared for these lessons and poured over the scriptures God lead me to, I began to realize that we as ministers are often as guilty as teenagers when it comes to our “ministry-image.” God began to convict me that so many times in my ministry career I have been so focused on what others think of my ministry achievements, that I forget to ask God for His opinion. As I begann to think on this more and more, I found it to be more and more true in my life.
As a Worship Leader, I began to think about how much stock I put into what kind of comments I receive after a worship service. If the comments are positive and plentiful, I feel a sense of accomplishment in a job well done. If the comments are scarce and/or negative, I, in turn, feel depleted and often second guess my song selection or some other details of the service. Sadly, I can recall very few times that I have spent in prayer after a service seeking the heart of Whom was supposed to be my “audience of One.” Does it really mean that God is not glorified in our song service if people don’t give me an “Atta boy” afterward? No! But my worship ministry-image is so often wrapped up in the accolades of others.
As a Student Pastor, in the same way, I find myself often seeking the approval of my students and their parents when it comes to our Student Ministry. Did students respond to a certain lesson? Did they not respond? Do parents like what we are doing? Do they not like what we are doing? These are all questions that I dwell on for far too long. And I often neglect to dwell long enough on asking myself if I am following God’s leadership for our ministry. Please understand that I am in favor of constructive criticism and suggestions. And I am not promoting a ministry attitude that says “who cares what other people think.” My point is simply that I am often guilty of letting my ministry-image be dictated by people rather than by Christ.
The last pitfall I find myself falling into when dealing with my ministry-image is the trap of seeking the attention of other ministers. I must admit that, at times, I have an unhealthy desire for my peers to see my ministries as successful. Even as I write articles such as this one, I find myself thinking about who will leave comments and what will those comments be. Always needing the approval of other ministers is not healthy. And on the other side of the coin I must admit to coveting the success I see in other ministers at times. It is so easy for us to crave and want what we see other ministers and ministries have. If we as ministers would spend less time wanting what other ministers seem to have, and more time seeking God’s face and His direction for the ministry He has entrusted us with, we might just see God begin to do amazing things in our ministries.
Having thought through all this, I have to come back to the truth that I stressed to my students over the past several weeks. If my “ministry-image” is based on anything else besides Christ and seeking to honor Him, it is not a healthy place to be in ministry.
Is it just me?