They Need Me

February 3rd, 2012

A friend once said to me regarding his church, “You don’t understand, they need someone like me!”

I wanted to respond, “I do understand. Maybe they do need someone like you, but that doesn’t mean it has to be you.” But he needed an ear more than anything else.

Although some say the Seven Deadly Sins are a bit outdated, I still believe that pride is the most serious and deadly of the sins.

Sometimes we let our ego and pride get in the way of God’s work and ministry.

Most of us have probably been in some sort of relationship—whether it be with a person, a job, an institution—where we felt like the other party needed us more than we needed them. But I think it’s safe to say that once we start thinking like that, the relationship isn’t going to last or be a healthy one. How can we have a healthy relationship when we start thinking they can’t survive without us? What does that say about us? That we’re the sole reason this relationship still exists? That they're so dependent on us, that once we walk away, they'll fall apart? That we are in this relationship out of pity? That we are their savior or messiah?

When it really comes down to it, in ministry the pastors just might be the most replaceable part.

We know that God uses the weak to lead the strong. Many of us have used the joke, "God once spoke to Balaam through an ass and has done so ever since" or "Jesus rode in on an ass, and still does." Don’t you think there’s a bigger ass out there that God can use more effectively?

As a pastor, I know that the formula for a healthy ministry is a little bit of me and a whole lot of God. We know and believe that all is possible through God’s grace in spite of us. All things are possible through God’s strength—not ours. Yet, at times, we let our egos take over our hearts and we think, “Where would these people be without me?” Or, “how long shall I put up with this unbelieving generation?”

I think this is one of the reasons why I’ve fallen short during the United Methodist ordination process. I was 28 when I first applied for full connection. I entered the process thinking that the California-Pacific Annual Conference needed someone like me more than I needed Cal-Pac and the United Methodist denomination. I now shamefully see the error in my thinking. I don’t know what basis I had to even think like that.

At the same time, I’m in no way saying to sell yourself short. Pastors bring great stuff to the ministry table. There's a reason why God has called us to the setting that we're in. There’s a reason why God chose us. And we're doing great things in God’s name through God’s grace. But we can't forget that it's God who's working through us.

The more we rely on ourselves the weaker our ministry will get. There may be truth in the sentiment that the church you serve needs you. But God is the Creator of the Universe and Author of Life. Surely, God can raise up another (better) version of you to lead God’s church.

There are plenty of asses God can speak through.


Joseph Yoo is pastor of youth and spiritual formation at Valencia United Methodist Church in Valencia, CA. He blogs at Step by Step.
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