The Presumptuous, Faithless and Reluctant Candidate: Part 2
I concluded yesterday by saying "I still had not gained clarity in my heart". Today, I want to show how God graciously helped me regain clarity where spiritual blindness had temporarily set in.
The Presumptuous Heart Diagnosed
The airplane rides home were treacherous. We were exhausted, irritable and eager to see our eighteen-month-old son who we left at home for the trip. In God’s grace, on the car ride home from the airport it hit me like a ton of bricks. I lacked faith. Ultimately, what I desired to confirm, a call to full-time gospel ministry, did not require a real act of faith. I confessed to my wife on that ride, “Why did I ever believe that this decision was not going to be a step of great faith?” Ashamed of my developed self-sufficiency I simply wept. The Lord had to strip the callousness building up of selfish-ambition and autonomy in my heart at one of the most important crossroads of my life. The Lord had to save my family and my potential flock from my faithlessness.
As I look back now it was as if the Lord was asking, “If I give you every objective reason to go and then to strip every subjective reason to go, will you trust me?” I sincerely believe that if I had not been trained to understand weight that pastoral ministry carries (Jam 3:1, 1 Pet 5:1-5), my conscience would not have been sensitive to the alarm the Lord tripped concerning potential disaster. I look back and wonder how many other decisions in recent history had been made from the pool of faithlessness I was steeped in.
The Lord requires that a man to be found faithful (1 Cor 4:1-2), but any faithfulness within a man truly gives proof to the steadfast, immovable faithfulness of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. One of our elders in the follow-up meeting when I returned said it best: “God is never out to affirm your ability, but only His ability through you” (Exod 3:14-15). The testimony of scripture speaks to the fact that men like Moses, Isaiah and Peter needed a dose of humility to expose a lack of faith before their commission to lead. The Man, Christ Jesus humbled Himself during the incarnation to accept the Father’s will to purchase the church and be her Chief Shepherd. This past week will be a stone alter in my heart to look back on and boast in the Lord’s faithfulness, protection of and patience with His sheep.
The Protection of Future Presumption
The Expositors Seminary does not merely simply train men in rigorous theological disciplines. They intimately nurture the character of those men who are developing their theology to shepherd the flock of God in the context of the local church under qualified elders. TES has and will always be a great protection for this flock. And I, like my mentors and the Apostle Paul himself, desire to “impart our own lives” to the sheep Christ places under our charge (1 Thess 2:8).
Week in and week out for a period of four years, I had the privilege to witness faithful men in the context of the local church display the very faith I speak of here. They set the bar for humility, faithfulness and pace of ministry for all the students’ training for pastoral ministry. Alongside their weekly ministry burdens of soul-care, the pastors set dedicated time to test our theology, character, and handling of God’s Word within His flock. Without what the TES model of training men represents and continues to hold, I fear what would have become of my experience which was coated in selfish-ambition. Another elder after sitting quietly for most of the report, and after hearing my inarticulate rambling simply stated, “When you objectively have all the information you need, and you know what you need to do, you make the decision IN FAITH and don’t look back.”
From the time the Lord exposed my heart on that car ride home, through repentance and a renewed vigor of faith, He delicately began to lift my chin from the grass. I had a meeting prior to the report with an on-staff pastor that disciples me (who went through this very experience last year) and that comforted my soul. Then came a two-hour self-disclosure to the staff at Grace Immanuel Bible Church which confirmed my objective desire to lead the flock at Church on 99 in Squamish, British Columbia and to step out in faith. Since that time of stripping away the subjective desires of my heart, as I look at the flock and this potential ministry endeavor now, a sincere God-given fervor for faithfulness has replaced it.
Lessons Learned From a Presumptuous Heart
I thank the Lord for this providential exposure of my heart. It reminded me of the reluctance a man must have before entering pastoral ministry. I understand at a deeper level the Apostle Paul’s burden when he told Timothy, “not to lay hands upon anyone too hastily” (1 Tim 5:22). His concern, was the protection of the church from the leadership! However, this ought to be a two-way street. A young man should also have the reluctance to have elders lay their hands upon him before he is sent out. My training wheels were taken off during this candidating visit and blind confidence soon turned to cowardice and confusion. I must recognize that I am a young, zealous, inexperienced man who is untested in his convictions and who is about to enter a most glorious work. I must then relinquish all self-sufficiency in manufacturing ministry success. That alone is the work of the Holy Spirit.
What TES has taught me is this: an untested man who wields his theology without proven ministry battle scars is in danger of harboring blind arrogance. I learned in my four years of training that there ought to be a healthy distrust of my own heart when leading the flock of God. A blind, untested fervor can inflate the prideful heart of a man and destroy a ministry leaving a trail of bloody sheep. This is Christ’s church, these are His sheep, and I have an expiration date in pastoral ministry. I have been amply taught the warning signs and the dangers that might expedite that date. The men in my life at TES helped me see that there are troubling waters ahead for a man who is overconfident. The last four years of my training cemented the reality that overzealous passion, blind confidence, self-trust, and selfish-ambition, are the ingredients to ensure a man will destroy a ministry. My heart must continually humble itself and gravitate towards 2 Corinthians 3:4-5, which says, “Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.”
Here are a few of the lessons I learned during this past week as that inexperienced man about to enter ministry:
- Revelation of weakness and inadequacy must be humbly embraced to strengthen our faith, for it is in those moments that God displays His power through us (2 Cor 3:4-6, 12:9-10).
- A self-sufficient, overconfident, finite man that rails against the all-sufficient infinite power of all-mighty God is blinded in his selfish ambition and ultimately will be humbled...or will make shipwreck of his faith (James 4:6-7).
- The greatest threat to my flock is my own pride and faithlessness...I am the greatest threat to my ministry if lead in my own strength/ingenuity (2 Tim 2:1).
- There is no substitute for the stringent apprenticeship model of training men for pastoral ministry in the local church context (Luke 6:40, 2 Tim 2:2).
The Privileged Proposal Accepted
Thursday morning, May 14th, 2015 marked the completion of the test. Wednesday evening I received their official letter for a call to ministry. Many of those same inadequate feelings began to well up in my heart again, but now I had the scriptures and faith to battle them. On Thursday morning I partook in a video call with the men at Church on 99 and their pastoral search committee officially accepting the call to full-time pastoral ministry in Squamish, British Columbia. I am eternally grateful for the Lord’s final exam for which no man could have prepared and graded adequately. I am also indebted to the spiritual investment all the pastors at TES and the local congregation of Grace Immanuel Bible Church who poured into me at their own expense. I need to be continually reminded of about the privilege it is to enter into the glorious work to shepherd the flock of God. Thank you TES and GIBC for what you both have meant to my family and me. Thank you for what you represent in the training of men for gospel ministry for the sake of Christ’s church and the Great Commission. Please continue to pray for gospel fruit in Canada.