The Great Youth Ministry Tramp

As ministers, we must be willing to admit that ministerial success often becomes the real basis for our joy and significance, much more so than the love and acceptance we have in Jesus Christ. Ministry success often becomes what we look to in order to measure our worth to others and our confidence before God. ”    – Tim Keller  (read the whole post here)

A good friend of mine posted this blog by Tim Keller today.  It rocked my world….again.  I have been wrestling with the truth of equating youth ministry success with the sufficiency of God for a good half year now.  After 23 years of ‘in the trenches’ ministry, I realized I had a mistress – and I’m not even sure when I got into bed with her.

Ministry is a sneaky seductress that looks so much like your First Love when it all begins – sometimes it’s easy to mistake the two.

When I was a kid, we had a set of twins in our school.  Suzanne and Suzette.  I could never, ever tell them apart.  I was never so excited as I was the day they determined to no longer dress alike.  Now that we’re all grown, I can easily tell them apart (no matter who is wearing the striped shirt and crazy jams – hey, it was the 80’s!)  I look at them now and wonder how I could have ever mistaken the two.

About six months ago, I had that same realization about ministry and my walk with Jesus.  Early on, ministry was because of Jesus.  But somewhere along the line, ministry became my Jesus.  And I didn’t even know it.  That little success-harlot gave me a sideways glance and I only recognized her as my True Love.  She spent a long time  patiently wooing me from the One who truly had my heart.  She wasn’t flirty.  She wasn’t sly.  She was sinister, cold, and calculated.  It was as though the witch had taken the form of the Princess – and I was none the wiser.

But, as often happens in a relationship, trial by fire came.  And the disguise was no longer a sufficient ruse.  The skank reared her ugly head and I realized I’d been had.  I had been sleeping with the enemy all this time. Looking back, I wonder how I ever confused the two.  The differences are so obvious to me now – but they were so veiled early on…

The sad part…even now that I KNOW I was tricked by that *!%^$@ – I still fight the draw back to her poisonous lips.  She whispers sweetly – her perfume intoxicating – her promises empty, but alluring.

The hardest thing on your relationship with Jesus is ministry – their appearance so similar, it’s other-worldly.  Know your First Love – intimately, deeply, truly.  Guard your heart – it is the only way you can truly distinguish the Princess from the prostitute. (Proverbs 4.23).

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Author: Darren Sutton

I'm a dad - husband - veteran youth pastor. I'm trying to follow God's call on my life, despite my own shortcomings & because of His unfailing love.

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