Why Pastoral Professionalism Isn’t Enough
We recently hosted our annual conference for pastors here in the Twin Cities in February. It was about the supernatural in the ministry. Pastor John, what were some of your conference takeaways?
The whole conference was entitled “Brothers, We Are Still Not Professionals,” and the nub of it came out when Jason Meyer said in his message, “There is no professional fear and trembling.” He was talking about taking up the mantle of the pastorate at Bethlehem. The Apostle Paul said he came to the church in Corinth “in fear and much trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:3), and he said it was of the essence of faith because Philippians 2:12 says we are supposed to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. And yet, when you stop to think about it, no professional seminar would give you ten steps to fear and trembling. So that is the gist of the conference.
Relying on the Spirit, Not Expertise
The things we are called to do as pastors are done in ways that rely upon the supernatural and awaken in us affections that are essential for doing the ministry — like fear and trembling, humility, love, kindness — and these are things that are just not considered professional in our day. Of course, these things aren’t viewed as evil by professionals, but I am just so eager that pastors not give up their self-identity to become “professional,” because all of the essential things in the ministry are of such a nature that we wouldn’t describe them as professional.
The pursuit of the power of the Holy Spirit is the essence of the matter in not being professional. We want to be the kind of ministers who rely not upon ourselves and our expertise and our excellence and our skills but upon the Holy Spirit. And what came out in the conference was that this is done in very ordinary ways.
Simple and Supernatural
I think my talk was an example of that: you meditate on the word of God by trying to say things in the most effective and compelling way. That is a very natural process in one sense. And yet if you do it with humble, child-like prayerfulness, crying out to God that he would bring to your mind the things that need to be said, then you can see what a switch it takes from professionalism. And the extraordinary came out in both Mack Stiles’ talk and in Tope Koleoso’s talk.
For example, Mack gave an illustration — you can’t plan or professionalize this. He told the story of a Muslim girl in Tehran who heard a voice in her head while she was in the shower: “I’m going to wash you of your sin.” She didn’t have a clue what that meant as a Muslim. She went to her imam, and he said, “Well, that was probably the prophet Jesus. Only the prophet Jesus talks that way.”
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, a woman approaches her sister, who’s a secret Christian, and says she had a dream in which she was supposed to get on a plane and fly to see her sister down in Iran, and she had already bought her ticket for her. So she flies down there, knocks on the door, and says, “I don’t know why I am here.” And the woman says, “Well, I know why you are here.” And she shares Christ with her. She becomes a Christian and that woman who had that impression in the shower is now in Mack Stiles’ church there in Dubai.
So that is the sort of thing that God is doing all over the world in terms of extraordinary works of the Spirit. So both the extraordinary and the ordinary show us that there is a way to pursue ministry that is different from what we usually think of as “professional.”