Recently I spoke with a new minister under my ministry covering. I’ve been working with him for about two weeks now and the process has proved most interesting. God has spoken to me of raising leaders for awhile now, and it was about a month ago when He spoke to me about an increasing number of spiritual sons and daughters under the covering. Leading leaders and training leaders is a large part of the apostle’s ministry and is also an essential aspect to ministry today. We have a rush of so-called people who claim to be leaders today but really want nothing more than to be in charge of matters. They want to give orders, be waited on hand and foot, and have a lot of people do whatever it is they say. True leadership operates with a servant mentality, and is brought about by a certain sense of humility. While many of us don’t think about this process, true leaders are humbled both in their ministry and by their ministry. My last phone call with my new spiritual son reminded me of this precept, and how important the process of humility in ministry is.
He’s a great man of God. He is inspiring, energetic, and enthusiastic. He has a great heart for God and for the ministry, truly a man with a pastor’s heart. God has given him a great revelation deposit, and he has some knowledge to go along with that. In my last phone call with him, however, I was face-to-face with a reality that is not always my favorite part of being an apostle. He has to talk over people. He does not listen, because he thinks he knows everything. He does not respond well to counter-viewpoints, criticism, or correction in any form, and no matter how gentle. He believes he is so smart, and so deposited with revelation, that everyone should want to hear it. In some ways, he is disagreeable, not very humble, and insistent on his own way. He believes himself to be the exception to the rule of ministry, and will be the one who makes it for no other reason that it is his calling, and he is “special.”
And, in a split second, I remembered who he reminded me of: myself, many years ago. I too had to talk over everyone, because I thought I was so anointed and relevant. I would never listen, because I thought I was the one who should be heard. I thought I was so smart, and so deposited with the revelation that everyone should hush to hear it. I too responded very negatively to criticism or counter-viewpoints. Nobody could correct me. I was totally insistent on my own way, and had no desire to accept leadership or positioning of others in my life. I too believed myself to be the exception to the rule of ministry (while it was in a different way, it was still the same problem), and that I was “special.”
It’s hard to work with those who are in the first few years of their calling. The first few years are a true threshold point for the called, whether or not they will be made or break. The majority of ministers I meet have been in ministry 3-5 years, and the vast majority of them, no matter how great their vision may seem, will most likely break before they reach the point of being made. It’s not negativity, it’s a cold-hard fact: many people go into ministry with little to no understanding of how ministry works, the necessary sacrifices ministry will demand, and the responsibilities a minister must bear. Ministry is not for the weak, nor the faint of heart. It takes discipline, understanding, and a certain level of obedience to come through to the other side. None of us are exempt from “spiritual boot camp.” What I realized in speaking to my spiritual son is there is a process of ministry most of us go through. It’s not easy to be a true minister of God, and not everyone who thinks they are up for this task really are. We must move from having complete confidence in ourselves to having it in Christ and knowing He is the true reason for what we do. We must be processed for humility.
How does ministry process us for humility? It usually follows a few basic steps, which may vary but are often remarkably alike for most ministers:
Receive the revelation – God gives to us a revelation. It is the contents of our ministry, His plan for us, and our purpose in His Kingdom. Along with that revelation goes the specifics of how the contents of our ministry and our purpose will manifest. We are often in awe of that plan, and have no idea how it will happen. Yet somewhere in there, we get a really big, swollen head, thinking this plan is because we’re involved rather than because God is involved. It may not be manifest on the surface to the majority, but let’s be real: we think we are really something.
God makes us sit on that revelation – This takes as long as it takes. God has given us a deposit, but it is an unpolished deposit. Such is evident because we fall in love with ourselves. Even though we may have a great ability to teach, preach, or reach others, God makes us wait because our underlying issues of self must be healed before we can reach others. With no outlet, we often wind up frustrated. God puts us in situations where we have to learn to submit to leadership and accept not everyone thinks we’re God’s gift to humanity. We experience opposition and difficulty.
We aren’t supported by leaders and those around us – This is a part of God making us sit on our revelation. All we want to do at this stage is be acknowledged by others. We want people to hear what we have to say and agree with us. How ironic is it that God matches us with people who don’t support our vision! We become more and more difficult, but at the same time, feel more and more rejected. We don’t understand how God can give us something so wonderful and nobody seems to see how great we are! We learn rejection, we learn isolation, and we learn the price we will have to pay to be different.
Become self-taught – It’s important that we take the educational opportunities God sends to us. These may not always be education in a traditional sense, but we must take those efforts to learn in dialogue and learn the things of God. Often today we wind up largely self-taught on matters, but at this stage of things, we always think what we know is all-sufficient and perfect. Instead of seeking education for expansion, we seek education to prove ourselves right. We will not listen; we want to be heard. We think we are right about everything, even if we are not. At this phase, due to the rejection and isolation we experience, we become argumentative. Everything becomes a debate, an argument, and a problem. No one can talk to us because we know it all, and we do not cater well to leadership.
We have no outlet for the revelation – At this point, we think God should have moved us farther along than we’ve gone. We can’t figure out why God isn’t promoting us because we’re so wonderful and so smart and why we still seem to be debating with these people who aren’t interested in us. We refuse to listen because nobody listens to us. We believe we’re getting kicked out of church because we’re just smarter than everyone else, instead of looking at our lousy attitudes and poor Christian character. The more we don’t get our outlet…the closer we come to a breaking point. We are frustrated, ready to give up, and ready, at long last, to give God the chance to be our Kingdom leader.
Once God is our leader, and we are humbled by our experiences, God begins to bring us breakthrough. It is slow at first, and constant in unveiling. Finally we know who we are, and who He is. He can bring forth the revelation in our lives because we know enough to get started and enough to listen to the leaders He sends to us for our learning and edification.
I think often of Peter’s experiences in ministry. Peter was humbled multiple times in his calling. Coming from a first-century Jewish Zealot position, Peter thought himself better than the Gentiles and believed he had many things figured out which he did not. Paul too received multiple lessons in humility. His teaching on the thorn in the flesh makes me realize we are constantly being humbled in what we do. Different people we meet, different circumstances we find ourselves in, different things we notice, personal battles, pain, and suffering, and different spiritual experiences all bring about humility in our ministries. They remind us we need God more than we need to be puffed up in the concept that we are called. We cannot be effective in ministry if we rely on ourselves and not on God. We have to be people who learn how to listen and learn how to receive the correction and blessing of good leaders. Surrendering to Kingdom vision means we set ourselves aside, humbled in God, and know it is not our will, but His that matters.
I thought all night about my early times in ministry. I could also see how God brought me to a point of humility through my own process. I had to deal with rejection, leaders who didn’t understand, and opposition. All that opposition came about to serve as a humbling, to remind me I am not Holy Ghost Jr. because I am called to be in ministry. I remember where I was, and I think about what God has ahead. It reminded me of a quote I once heard: “I have lived many lives, some of which were my own; I am not now that which I once was.” I didn’t start out where I am now, and I am sure I will not be where I am now one day down the line. What I recognize now is that in our process, we do need encouragement to get where we need to be; but sometimes we need a good, old fashioned humbling. We don’t need to hear how wonderful we are all the time or how anointed we are; sometimes we just need to hear what we are not so we can grow in God and get to the edification we need. A good leader is not about puffing up, but about building us all to be where God has for us to be.
Every one of us starts at humility, and we go up from there. It is the end of the process to destroy the flesh, and the beginning of a whole new life in Christ.
(C) 2010 by Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.