While I was still in high school, I first experienced God's call to ministry when one of my uncles, a missionary to Malaysia, was home on furlough. As he talked and showed us photos, I knew that God wanted me to enter a full-time ministry for Him. I also felt He wanted me to be like my uncle, although I didn't feel comfortable with the idea of moving to another country or living in another culture. That seemed somewhat too extreme.
So I decided I would be like another uncle, who was the pastor of a local church. I watched him carefully and studied this avenue of ministry. But within a few years, my goal changed again. Now I was certain God wanted me to be like Billy Graham, something I knew would be unattainable without God's special blessing. Still, if God wanted me to be the next great world evangelist, it would happen.
As reality gradually set in, my next vision was to be like Howard Hendricks, whom I had only heard on tape. There was a simplicity and insight in his message that excited me. Richard Halverson produced similar results when I heard him speak. And, while in seminary, I was fascinated by the brilliance and compassion of several of my professors and decided I should glean a little of each of them into my developing "style". Years later came Chuck Swindoll, the pastor of the church I was then attending. He was amazing week after week, not just in that one special sermon used for major speaking engagements.
Suddenly, a new feeling crept over me — one that scared me. As I witnessed the amazing insights and abilities of these great men of the faith, I feared I would never measure up. I was certain I would never have such insight or the skill to convey it so gracefully. I began to wonder if I had misunderstood God's call. I just didn't feel I was or ever could be good enough to be such a preacher.
In due time, I decided that God was actually calling me to a ministry as a Christian writer. I had just discovered a new author named Max Lucado and it seemed providential that God would bring his touching, sensitive work into my life just when I needed a star on which to hang my new dream.
Similarly, I marveled at my new boss, James Dobson, who intrigued me with his ability to combine and simplify complex thoughts into powerful messages that everyone could understand and appreciate. Then came H.B. London, a man with a passion for pastors and their families exactly like my own, derived from my own experiences in pastoral ministry. It was finally becoming more clear just who God wanted me to be like. And it was about time!
And then it hit me (much later than you saw it, I'm sure). Throughout my entire ministerial life, I had been trying to be someone else, wishing I had the speaking voice, writing style or leadership abilities of another. In fact, I now wondered if I had been trying to imitate someone else for so long that I'd lost my grasp on who I was, on my own uniqueness.
God doesn't need two George Whitefields, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeons, Dwight Moodys or E.V. Hills. But, in addition to one of each of these, He does need one me — and one you. We need to be ourselves. And, if we are to be all He really wants us to be, we must learn to draw close to Him and listen to His guidance.
Ever feel like you need to wear a mask to cover up who you are? Are you concerned that, if people knew who you really are and how you really felt, they wouldn't understand?
One minister, two jobs and the family that's at the top of the list. The number of bivocational ministers, those in full- or part-time ministry who carry an additional job, is estimated by some researchers to be as high as 30 percent of ministers nationwide.
"You should see the church they attend," Lucille said, armed with bulletin and newsletter. Creases formed across my brow as celebration gave way to comparisons a trap that had sprung too many times.