This is the first of three posts leading up to the 2012 Together for the Gospel Conference. Even if you aren’t going, if you answer these questions for yourself, you will be challenged to rely on God’s grace all the more in your ministry.
We who preach the gospel so often underestimate its power.
The theme for this year’s Together for the Gospel conference is “The Underestimated Gospel.” It’s not just an important message for the world and the church.
It’s an important message for pastors, too.
Whether you are attending, catching the sessions online, or neither, will you take a minute to inspect your heart with me? Let’s consider ways we underestimate the gospel. Let’s repent. Then let’s get back to grasping the power of God for salvation.
1. Are you underestimating your pastoral giftedness? This attitude underestimates the gospel in a self-pity kind of way. You may think that you are not good enough for the gospel to work through you. If you go into T4G with this attitude, your thoughts will drift toward, “I wish I could preach like that,” or “If I could think that theologically, my people would appreciate me so much more.” And then you’ll start fantasizing about how great your ministry could be.
No, no, no. God uses people through their gifts, not because of their gifts. Remember that God is using you despite your sin! That is how powerful the gospel is.
2. Are you overestimating your pastoral giftedness? Maybe ministry is going well for you right now. And maybe, just maybe, you think it’s because of how well you preach, evangelize, counsel, lead, etc.
This underestimates the gospel in the opposite way of #1. Do you minister as if your gifts were a help to the cause of the gospel, and not the other way around? God is not lucky to have you. By the power of the gospel he saved you and equipped you to minister to others. Exchange your pride for thankfulness and awe.
3. Are you competing against other pastors? Competition between preachers is nothing new (see Phil. 1:15-18). If you struggle with #1 above, you may be competing like an underdog. If you struggle with #2, you may be competing like a one-seed in the first round.
When we do this, we underestimate or overestimate other pastors’ gifts, and therefore we underestimate the gospel in others according to the ways I’ve shown in #1 and #2 above.
A conference can breed among pastors a weird “sizing each other up” dynamic, like two little league teams warming up their arms before the first pitch (and that is about the age such pastors act like). Don’t forget that everyone at the conference is on the same team. The Name on the back of our uniforms has blood red stitching, and was sealed there by the Spirit.
4. In what ways are you fulfilling your ministry according to the flesh? When you pastor your church according to what the world says is important, you underestimate the power of the gospel to change the values of your people.
Detect and disassemble the earthly standards by which you evaluate your ministry like a soldier who disarms mines for his unit. It’s just as much a matter of life and death for soldiers as it is for pastors.
This doesn’t mean you have to stop counting heads in the pews. But you may need to change the importance you attach to those numbers. It doesn’t mean you have to lower your standards for your musicians. But you may need to change how you follow up with your worship pastor when the band blows a piece.
If you aren’t going to T4G next week, I do suggest you catch as many of the sessions online as you can.
I’m looking forward to going. It’s getting convicting already.