Invisible Ministry

"When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. -- Jesus of Nazareth

"When you preach, you are not to be like the televangelists; for they love to stand and preach in front of TV cameras and in convention centers so that they may be adored by men. Truly I say to you, their egos have been stroked too much. -- Bob of Kansas

For years I have battled with a phenomenon that I call "Invisible Ministry" ... you know, doing the stuff when no one is looking and doing the essential nonpublic forms of ministry. Much of this work comes under the heading of 'pastoral ministry' and I love doing it ... but ... I am almost choking as I write this ... I have been in a fierce battle with a dark part of me that wants to be 'visible'.

The desire to be visible is a dark side of the ministry ... wanting to be seen and appreciated by people is a dark force that permeates much of American church leadership. Many large ministries and churches, as well as small ones, are led by men which have surrendered to the dark side of visible ministry. These men were, at one point in their lives, seduced by public ministry.

The problem is that many who are drawn to public ministry are ill-equipped for non-public shepherd-like ministry. Many of these are narcissistic and are drawn to ministry to be seen rather than to see. As a result these folks are often blind to the needs and pain of those around them. They are so focused on themselves and their ministries that they can see little else.

Back to me. It may surprise some of you that I have been battling this for so long ... you know how spiritual I am :) Maybe I'll give you a glimpse of what this looks like. Resentment has sometimes embraced me (or I it) when others are given speaking opportunities. Feelings of inadequacy and rejection accompany resentment. Subtle criticism of others accompany those feelings and I become bitter. Those feelings trouble me because at a gut level because I know better.

So, over the past several years I have continued to go to the Lord and search out with Him the why of my reactions to invisible ministry ... it has not been a comfortable journey. Looking back I realize that I had been deceived early in my Christian life ... I bought into a religious economy that is the opposite of the ministry that Jesus calls me and you into ... this economy had a stranglehold over me.

This year has already been the best of times and the worst of times. Worst because of health and family issues but best because I have finally conquered (and am conquering) the need to be seen ... I am finally comfortable (and getting more comfortable) with Invisible Ministry ... and it is such a great release :)

For those of you out there that struggle with invisible ministry, I suggest that you reread the sermon on the mount. In that sermon Jesus lays bare the thoughts and intents of our hearts ... our need to be seen ... our earthly motives that truly get in the way of real ministry. I commend you to Invisble Ministry ... people all around you need you and this kind of ministry.

4 comments:

  1. This is a tough one. On one hand, we're supposed to be role models as ministers, so we walk a fine line. We all struggle with ego, Bob. It just depends upon where we take it...if good for others doesn't come from it, it ain't ministry.

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  2. I am keeping this post....the reminder I am sure will be necessariy....Thanks

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  3. Karen, Good point. On the one hand, a big television ministry could be criticized for striving for that visibility thing KB is talking about. On the other, it may be praised as a way to reach more people for the sake of the Gospel.
    'Tis a tightrope walk, no?

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  4. I would rather be in the background for most things except those I am confident I do well (which in itself is a potential / danger problem!!)

    But now due to certain circumstances I am thrust more int the spotlight as my local church needs to see their pastor more visibly. It is my responsibility.

    Tough ... :-(

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