Interview with

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

[Audio clip] … That was Pastor John at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary chapel in January of 2014. This warning from you, became a tweet, and it became a popular tweet. A lot of people retweeted it. Pastor John, can you give us a brief synopsis of why this is true. Why is this the case with our ministries? Why is the greatest threat to our ministries that we will stop enjoying God?

Yeah. There are a lot of reasons. The first one that I think I had in mind when I said that was that if a pastor loses his enjoyment of God, God himself, if he ceases to experience God as his supreme treasure and underline the word experience, not just say he is, but experience, if he ceases to experience that, he will not be able to preach with authenticity. You can’t commend as supremely precious what you don't cherish supremely. And the Bible says that the function of preaching, 2 Corinthians 1:24, is we are workers with you for your joy. So we are... I am aiming at the joy of my people in God. Or Philippians 1:25. I will remain and continue with you for your progress and joy of faith. So this is the heart of our message. Christ is of surpassing value, Philippians three. He is to be, therefore, enjoyed above all things. he is the most valuable treasure in the universe. But if we don’t feel that, this is what I am referring to. What happens if we start to drift into a kind of callousness and we don’t feel that anymore. That eventually either going to make us unable to proclaim his supreme value or make us hypocrites, because we keep on saying he is when we have stopped feeling that he is. And I don’t think you can survive in the ministry as a hypocrite very long or at least not doing good to people. And you will bale. So that is the first reason.

Here is another one. Without the ability to enjoy God in the ministry, we will lose our motivation for the whole thing, the whole pressing on in the work. We will run out of gas. The joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10. If you lose it, you lose strength. Many pastors bale on the ministry not because their gifts have changed, but because their heart has changed.

Number three, we will experience an increasing blindness in our ability to see the meaning of texts if we lose our joy in God. If God and his supreme value and our proper response to that value is a theme running through all of Scripture, which it is, we will be increasingly unable to see it or trace it. We will either grow weary of trying or we will subtly distort the Scriptures so they stop condemning us in our study because we have lost the joy, because the Bible relentlessly is portraying God as all satisfying and relentlessly describing the battle to keep your heart warm, hot in him. And if we have lost it, we are either going to ignore those texts or distort those texts. And we can’t do ministry that way.

And the last thing I would say is: We will do our people great harm if we stop enjoying God, because Hebrews 13:17 says: Let the leaders, let the pastors oversee you with joy, with joy, not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. In other words, we will not be of any advantage to our people if we are not enjoying Christ in the ministry of the Word.

So yes to what I said at SBTS. Yes, for the sake of our authenticity in preaching and for the sake of our perseverance in motivation and for the sake of our faithfulness in exegesis and for the good of our people, we have to fight and fight for and find joy every day in God, in God, not in circumstances. They are hard, but God is always infinitely worthy of being delighted in.

And this is a lesson pastors have to learn in seminary, early on, right?

Well hopefully well early. I mean, I think the seed for this is given the day you are converted. And if we are poorly taught, which too many of us are, if we are poorly taught the seed will just lie there. It won’t grow. It won’t flourish. It won’t bear fruit. But if we are immersed in the Bible and we are well taught, the seed will be discovered and a ten year old can learn these things. And so I hope that more and more churches will be clear on this, helping people to fight for joy, understanding the ups and downs of the Christian life so that when guys get to seminary they have got a foundation for this. But if that hasn’t happened, then may the Lord grant that as they are in their classes and they are opening the Word, this truth, this theme that is running through Scripture that God is out to do us good and he means to reveal us as the all satisfying treasure, may that come true and through all the Scriptures.

Yes, amen. Thank you Pastor John — and that is why we exist. “Desiring God is a ministry that exists to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.” … That entire chapel message, titled, “Don’t Waste Your Seminary” can be found on the desiringGod.org website. And speaking of fighting for joy in ministry, see two related podcasts in Ask Pastor John, episodes #27 and #256. … And speaking of seminary, two of our friends and partners here at Desiring God, David Mathis and Jonathan Parnell, have recently published a short book titled, How to Stay Christian in Seminary. It’s worth checking out, and it’s worth giving as a gift to anyone you know in seminary training right now. … We will be back on Monday with an all new episode. Until then, I’m your host Tony Reinke, have a great weekend!