Marking 26 years in the ministry

Posted 1/19/19

On Monday, I will turn 44 years old. The middle 40’s is an interesting age to be; you are too old to be young and yet too young to be old. I reckon you are not over the hill but you’re not exactly climbing up the front side like a young buck either. I suppose in the middle forties one is standing firmly on the summit of that hill, not quite ready for the downward journey.

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Marking 26 years in the ministry

Posted

On Monday, I will turn 44 years old. The middle 40’s is an interesting age to be; you are too old to be young and yet too young to be old. I reckon you are not over the hill but you’re not exactly climbing up the front side like a young buck either. I suppose in the middle forties one is standing firmly on the summit of that hill, not quite ready for the downward journey.

This year will also mark 26 years in ministry for me. I can still remember preaching that first sermon on July 5, 1992. I wore a three piece suit and had ten pages of notes. Once I stepped into the pulpit of that little church on that hot summer day, it only took ten minutes and twenty buckets of sweat for me to be finished. Oh, how much I didn’t know about ministry back then.

I had no idea the amazing feeling of watching God use me in a preaching setting to draw people to Him in repentance and brokenness. I had no context for the excitement and thrill of mission work, watching God work in people’s lives because He was using my witness and service for His glory. No one could have helped me fully appreciate the exhilaration and delight of seeing people go from death to life in salvation. I had no way to calculate the incredible believers I would meet along the way who have supported, encouraged, and challenged me. I could easily continue listing the many blessings I have received by being one of God’s called ministers.

But I could also not comprehend the sadness I would experience when I was stabbed in the back by church members I trusted. I could have never described to that young preacher in 1992 the deep hurt he would one day endure watching people he had invested in fall away from the faith, totally rejecting the Gospel. I had no way to know the sense of angst and frustration watching people destroy their marriages, judge each other, live so comfortably with hard feelings, and embrace hypocritical lives. There’s no way I could have prepared my younger self for the number of tears I have shed over people. Once again, I could easily continue listing the hardships I have experienced being one of God’s ministers.

Many ministers I went to university and seminary with and have known for these two and a half decades are out of the ministry. And I fully understand why. This is tough stuff. You often don’t have enough income, you truly don’t know who you can trust, and you don’t know when you will be out of a job. The enemy is constantly targeting the pastor and staff members, ever searching for ways to destroy them and their families as well as the faith and trust of those they serve. That’s a heavy burden to live with on a daily basis. Some pastors serve in very troubled churches where people are more focused on themselves than the Lord and they love their own comfort more than God’s call. In some of these churches, the pastor is more of a target for haters than a teacher for hearers.

As I look ahead to the next 26 or more years of ministry, I want to finish well. I want to continue with a great passion for the work of God, a growing excitement about the resurrection of Jesus, a genuine humility before the cross of Jesus, and a heavy burden for the unsaved of this world. I want to preach like that sermon could be my last, share the Gospel like someone’s eternity depended on it, pray like heaven had opened up before me, and serve like God Himself was cheering me on.

I want to be like my friend Amy in North Carolina who was a nominal church member until she experienced the horrors of breast cancer several years ago. Once God healed her, she promised to serve God faithfully and wholeheartedly every single day of her life and she has absolutely done that. Her faith in and love for Jesus is strong and infectious even to this day.

I want to be like my friends James and Tracey who have such a burden for the lost that they left the comforts of America as well as the hugs and kisses of their precious, little grandchildren to serve Jesus in South Asia, taking the Gospel to unreached people groups on the frontlines of ministry. Their work is hard and dangerous but they are seeing piles of people respond to the Gospel!

I want to be like my friend Jeri who is in heaven now. She survived and thrived on this earth for over 15 years with an extremely aggressive form of cancer but was the most Gospel focused, full of faith, Spirit-filled, generous person I think I have ever met even though that disease disrupted her life constantly. Out of her love for Jesus, she did more for the Lord while she was constantly sick than most do fully healthy.

I never want to get over the fact that Jesus saved me from a devil’s hell, God’s just wrath, and my awful sin. I never want my children to look at me or my ministry and hate the Lord and the Church because of my actions or inaction. I never want to bring great shame on my Lord and His work because of selfish, sinful, and sordid choices. I want to finish well for my Lord!

What about you, preacher? How about you, deacon? What do you think, Sunday School teacher? What do you say, staff member? Is this your heart, too? Don’t you want to serve Jesus with great passion and desire and faithfulness and joy and sincerity? Regardless of how young or old you are, don’t you have an insatiable craving to see God do a miraculous and life-changing work in your church and community? Don’t you have such a burden that you weep in prayer, witness with courage, lead with purpose, and disciple with intentionality? Don’t you have such a dynamic vision of Jesus risen from the dead that you are hungry for whatever God has for you to do?

If we want to see God do a great work in our communities, our churches, and our families, surely all of us need to reflect on where we have been, where we are now, and where we are headed. Regardless if you are 14, 44, or 94, perhaps we can all benefit from taking a deep and honest look at how God has used us for His glory or how we have instead pursued our own glory. I’m fired up to serve my Lord but by the time next year rolls around, I want to be even more passionate, dedicated and determined to serve Him. Don’t you?

Scott McCullar is pastor of First Baptist Church of Carbon Hill. He can be reached by email rscottmcc@att.net or by calling 205-924-4145. More information on the church can be found online at website is www.firstbaptistcarbonhill.org.