Thursday, October 05, 2006

The odor of personal ambition

Kent Carlson reflects on the brutality of pastoral ambition:
Something has happened in the past thirty or so years that has shifted our pastoral ethic from one of faithfulness to one of productivity and success. I believe this has stirred the fires of ambition. Given the nature of our American culture, this doesn't surprise me. It also doesn't surprise me that the battle with ambition will be a ferocious one, for the tendency toward self-absorption plagues every one of us. I just wonder why this is not a front burner item that is being addressed with greater passion in the popular Christian media. It would be so refreshing to hear Christian leaders in some panel discussion copping to the fact that they struggle with it and it often drives their ministry. We all know it's there. If only we could start being honest about it.


Blogger Stephen said...

As a young ambitious person, who spent a very short stint in pastoral ministry and God-willing will be back in the pastoral ministry fold in a years time, I try really hard to check my motives as often as possible. And I've narrowed it down to this sentence:

I exist for the furtherance of God's kingdom.

The thing I check myself on is where I place the emphasis in the sentence - on 'kingdom' or on 'God' - am I building a 'kingdom' or am I being used of God to build HIS 'Kingdom'. I pray God would help me and all fellow Gospel workers to keep the emphasis right.

11:02 AM, October 06, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Amen. When I used to work in government, all of us could tell the ambitious ones---we said they were busy building their empires. As you say, our calling is for the Kingdom, and it belongs to God. Peace.

1:11 PM, October 06, 2006  
Blogger PamBG said...

Milton, I can't follow the link, could you reinstate this?

I have a sermon on "the idolatry of productivity"!

I wish I had a pound (I'm in the UK, remember!) for every time over the last 6 years I've read someone on the internet saying things like "Churches in this Christian camp are dying because they don't preach the real word of God and Churches in that Christian camp are prospering because they do."

I wish I had a pound for every time someone equated church growth and/or a large congregation with being a faithful preacher. It's as if the preacher has "control" over the "success" of his or her congregation by "being faithful" and as if church size were a direct indication of one's faithfulness. Much in the same way as the ancient world believed that prosperity was prima facie evidence of a person's having been blessed by God. (Is there some sort of preachers' version of "the prosperity gospel"?)

I agree with spooh and the quotation that it's incredibly easy to catch oneself thinking "I want to be a great preacher". So easy, that on my prayer list, I have it marked every day to pray to be a faithful conduit of what God wants to say to the congregations.

6:03 PM, October 06, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Thanks for making me aware of the link glitch, Pam. Haven't heard from you in a while, and I hope you're doing well.

Thanks for sharing the ideas about prosperity=faithfulness. I have to say my experience has mostly been the opposite. When I really preach repentance, as we see done in the NT, there often seems to be a negative correlation to attendance. In other words: more repentance, fewer hind ends in pews. I certainly don't want to say this is a general principle, but it seems to be as much a truism as the idea that strong biblical preaching draws a crowd.

9:24 PM, October 06, 2006  
Blogger PamBG said...

I'm fine, thanks, Milton. Just trying to get my head around being a new minister! September and October are the months of the year when all the "new business" has to be done in British Methodism. We get plopped straight in on 1st September and have to learn to deal with things like what date the "new forms that replaced Schedule A" are due!

I've tended to preach "repentance" as a "turning around in God's direction". I can't say I've ever done a "series" on the subject and I've only ever been a lay preacher up until now, preaching at a variety of different churches. (British Methodism sends you around the circuit to churches one doesn't necessarily know terribly well; certainly, one doesn't have much pastoral information about any congregation as a lay preacher.)

4:03 AM, October 07, 2006  
Blogger Catez said...

Hi Milton,
Great post. This applies to many areas of life I think. Hope all is well with you - been a while since I checked in here. Sorry for the long absence!

3:07 PM, October 07, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Great to hear from you, Catez! And I really like your post on who is the greatest blogger! Peace.

7:56 AM, October 08, 2006  
Blogger Rik said...

I planted a church 10 years ago having no idea that I was driven by selfish ambition. It was so easy to hide my true motivation behind "reaching people" and "serving God". My true motivation was success so that I could finally be "somebody". I used unknowingly used people so that "I could Succeed" only to discover that no matter how well I did, I was not successful enough.
The toxic nature of ambition just isn't taught and it should be. It nearly destroyed my family and hurt everyone around me at some level.
While I still struggle with it, I try to make my ambition center on 2 things:
To lead a quiet life 1 Thess. 4:11
To get to know God well enough to be able to trust him to be all I need.

9:20 AM, June 30, 2011  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Dear Rik, sorry it took me so long to reply; I haven't been on the blog for nearly a year and had forgotten about comment moderation before that.

Thanks for sharing your experiences. Your advice looks very sound.

10:14 AM, September 05, 2012  

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