AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
When you think of serving God, what is your focus? It’s outward, of course. That’s why we often call our ministry efforts outreaches, because we’re reaching out to other people. Whether you’re serving God as a pastor, prophet, Sunday school teacher, evangelist, missionary, or internet blogger, what’s the point? Why do you do what you do? To help people find God? To help people know Him better? To bring hope to the hopeless? To save souls from Hell? To spread light in the darkness? It’s easy to come up with some holy sounding motivations and mission statements, isn’t it? But here’s the problem with outreaches—you’re not reaching out to God, you’re reaching out to people, and such backwards priorities are going to land you in a heap of trouble.
Who is supposed to be your first priority in life? God, of course. But do we really get this? Try asking a Christian what the greatest commandment is, and after quoting that bit about loving God with all that we are, they rush to tack on that bit about loving other people, then they insist that the two concepts are of equal importance. Well, no, they most certainly are not. God is supposed to be first. Loving God, pleasing Him, and pursuing deeper intimacy with Him are supposed to be our all-consuming obsessions in life. So how do we move towards these goals? By taking our eyes off of God and obsessing over the spiritual needs of others—doesn’t that sound logical? Because if you really loved God, you’d treat Him as your last priority in life by spending everything you’ve got on trying to save people. If God is really your First Love, you’d prove it by giving the best you’ve got to other humans and then leaving Him strung out on the few crumbs of your time, attention, and passion that you have left over at the end of the week. All of you well-meaning pastors, priests, evangelists and counselors who are skidding into burnout: it’s time to realize you’ve been badly deceived by a rebellious Church who has had her spiritual wisdom turned into idiocy by a God who is fed up with her attitude. It’s not your job to save people. It’s not your job to manufacture light in this world. You have been called to pursue the Light Himself, and to leave the task of ministering to the world in His hands. We humans cannot save each other. We cannot force other souls to understand truth, we cannot make rebels repent, nor does God want us to try.
Here’s a critical truth that no one is going to tell you: God didn’t call you to serve Him so that you could play the part of His supervisor, counselor, or invaluable assistant. God so doesn’t need your help to get things done in this world. He’s God Almighty, not some bumbling creature. When we teach souls that God is all-wise and all-powerful and then tell them that He can’t possibly accomplish His agenda in this world without human help, what kind of irreverent dribble are we pushing? When God called you to speak, preach, or teach for Him, He didn’t authorize you to go around presenting Him as some limited incompetent who is overwhelmed by issues like poverty, depravity and spiritual darkness. We are teaching the flock all wrong because we’re regurgitating the idiocy that was passed down to us by spiritual mentors who didn’t really know the God they’re always talking about. God wants us to reach towards Him, not towards other human beings. What God wants from you is not a list of converts and baptisms, but your soul panting after more of Him.
Suppose two people got married, then the wife said, “I want my marriage to be strong. So I’m going to spend every waking minute counseling others on how to improve their marriages. I’ll just come home to sleep and if my husband happens to be awake when I do, we’ll exchange a few words.” Does this sound like a solid plan? Give it a few years, if that, and what kind of marriage will she have? She’ll know her husband as well as most Christians today know their God: he’s just the guy she’s legally bound to. It’s because she spends her life teaching about marriage but never working on her own marriage that this woman is going to end up with an estranged relationship, a frustrated husband, and a starving heart. We are hurtling towards a similar fate when we buy into the Church’s lie that the way to please God is to talk about Him more than we talk to Him. You aren’t doing God any favors by spreading the Gospel message. You do not have the power to illuminate souls with spiritual truths. You can do nothing apart from God, and He didn’t create you just to be some vehicle through which He produces good works.
God made you for the purpose of having a personal, meaningful relationship with Him. In your life, He is always going to bring the focus back to you and Him. But the Church pressures you to take your focus off of your own relationship with God and get involved in ministry. And of course the Church’s definition of ministry is you spending a bunch of time and energy trying to control God’s relationship with other humans. Has your neighbor been exposed to the Gospel message yet? You’d better get out there and share. That newcomer in the back row looked upset by your sermon—you’d better chase him down the street and make sure he wasn’t offended or he might not come back. You’ve already got more clients than you can juggle, but now another desperate soul is asking for counseling—how can you turn them down? You’d better get that critical video posted on YouTube tonight because the world is desperately waiting for your wisdom. You haven’t posted anything new on your blog in a while—better make up something before your followers get bored and go elsewhere. Your stats are lagging—what can you do to spike interest in your ministry? Your funds are dipping—it’s time to start sucking up to rich people so that the world won’t be darkened by the loss of your critical program.
The Church is always trying to strap the weight of the world onto your incapable shoulders, and then she has the gall to tell you it’s actually God’s will that you kill yourself trying to do His job for Him. Not only are you supposed to be trying to do His work, you’re also supposed to be monitoring what He’s doing 24/7, weeping over His mistakes, and telling Him when to course correct. Even though God wants souls to have the option of defying Him and landing in Hell, you’re not being a “good Christian” unless you’re crying and weeping over the state of the lost. When God keeps blocking your attempts to witness to your unsaved neighbor, you’re supposed to start nagging Him to get out of your way and “make an opportunity.” It’s on you to decide for God what topics will be most “relevant” for your congregation this week. And after you’ve crafted some entertaining sermon and made sure the worship pastor chooses songs that fit with your personal agenda, you actually have the gall to order God to “soften hearts” to be receptive to your message. If you say that God is your Husband, where is your devotion? If He is your King, where is your respect? If He is your Master, why are you the one giving the orders? If you buy into the Church’s irreverent approach to ministry, you’re not only going to end up with no credit for any of your flesh-driven efforts to serve God, you’ll never develop a relationship with Him, which is the same as saying you’ll be missing the point of your existence.
God didn’t put you on this earth so that you can try to draw other souls to Him. He put you here to draw you closer to Himself. It is your own relationship with God which is supposed to be at the top of your priority list, no matter what kind of ministry effort you’re engaged in. Whether you’re crafting sermons, writing blogs, planning lessons, or pondering spiritual insights, if the bottom line isn’t about deepening your own walk with God, then it’s time to ask Him to help you get your priorities in alignment with His.
Serving God is supposed to be viewed as yet another means by which we commune with Him. The point in serving is not to change the world around us. The point is to become changed ourselves by walking alongside God and having Him teach us more about who He is and what He wants. God is going to get His agenda done in this world with or without us. He does not depend on us in any way. When He invites us to participate in His work, it’s an invitation to grow in our personal walks with Him. It is by learning to keep in step with God’s erratic pace and practicing submission to His nonsensical orders that we learn to love Him better. God does not want assistants. He wants creatures who cherish Him above all else. He wants creatures who delight in being with Him while at the same time embracing their identity as His dependents who can do nothing apart from Him. Life is about God: pleasing Him, knowing Him, loving Him, and honoring Him. It’s not about other people. Our relationships with others are merely contexts in which we learn how to better relate to our Creator. Everything is supposed to come back to God, and when we are listening to Him, we will find that He is continuously pulling our focus away from other things and back onto Him.
So then, it’s time for some honest soul searching. Are you serving God out of a desire to know and love Him better? Or are you just trying to assist and control Him? Are you in this to help others or to further your own pursuit of God? If it’s not about God, then you’re missing the point. It’s not your job to spiritually assist others. God wants every soul to learn how to revolve around Him alone in life. Most souls will refuse to ever learn these lessons, no matter how many sermons you throw at them. You can’t let the choices of others get in the way of your own progress. In the end, we will each stand alone before God. When that day comes, do you want to see the Love of your life or some glorious Stranger who you barely know? If we aren’t focused on improving our own relationships with God, then we’re missing the point. If saving others has become more important to us than growing closer to God ourselves, then we’ve veered off course and we need to ask God to help us get back on track with Him. God will always pull our focus back onto Him. The Church will drive us down a thousand roads of righteous distraction while teaching us that it is utterly selfish to only concern ourselves with our own walks with God. No, actually, it’s what God wants us to do. Pray about it. Our lives on earth are much too brief to spend chasing after the wrong priorities.
Understanding Why God Calls Us to Serve Him
Why God Wants You to Stay Selfish
The Right Focus in Life According to Christ
Shepherd Burnout: Help for Pastors