Have you ever wanted to preach like Adrian Rogers, write like Warren Wiersbe, and lead like John Maxwell? Often, we see various pastors speaking at conferences and publishing books and wonder what we need to do differently to be all that we can be in ministry. It seems that we, as pastors, are constantly bombarded with feelings that we don’t quite measure up. This sense of inadequacy can lead us to try and be someone we are not.
I remember preaching my first sermon at 14 (God bless those poor people!). I had listened to tapes of several of my favorite preachers and did my best to sound just like them that Sunday night. It was awkward. The people were incredibly gracious at the end of the service but I knew something was off.
My experience was a lot like David’s experience in 1 Samuel 17:38-40. After volunteering to fight Goliath, David was given Saul’s armor to protect and aid him in the battle. The Bible indicates David looked similar to a little boy who attempts to wear his dad’s clothes. The armor did not fit, Saul’s sword was too heavy, and you could have probably spun the helmet around on David’s head.
In much the same way, I had tried on other people’s armor (preaching style, tone of voice, gestures) only to walk away feeling like a second rate copycat. It was several weeks later that I had a wise mentor remind me that God had called me to be me, not Adrian Rogers or Warren Wiersbe or John Maxwell.
The reality is God has not called us to be anything more or less than who he created us to be. This is the beauty of the gospel! We were saved to fulfill God’s purposes and, as pastors, we are called to serve the body of Christ. Consider four reasons why we should be ourselves in ministry:
1. When we are ourselves, we celebrate the power of the gospel.
Paul was a self-proclaimed poor communicator (1 Corinthians 2:1-5) but instead of attempting to be someone he was not, he embraced his identity in Christ. The power of his ministry was not in his giftedness and ability but in the gospel message he preached. When we attempt to be someone we are not, we cheapen the gospel’s work in our life instead of celebrating its transforming power.
2. When we are ourselves, we submit to God’s calling on our life.
If God had wanted Adrian Rogers to pastor your people, God would not have called you! However, he did call you and there is a reason why he did. In his providence, he knew that you needed to serve this group of people and they needed you as their pastor. In his kingdom plan, you are the man he chose to use “for such a time as this.” Embrace God’s call on your life and be you. Your people will thank you!
3. When we are ourselves, people see us as authentic and not frauds.
Have you ever met a pastor that was one man at the church picnic and someone completely different in the pulpit? Our people recognize when we attempt to be someone different than we are. An easy remedy for this is for pastors to join a Sunday School class or small group. People need to see our strengths and weaknesses. They need to know the man behind the pulpit for who he truly is and not the legend or myth he may try to personify.
4. When we are ourselves, people are able to see God’s continued work in our life and ministry.
I’m sure your first sermon, like mine, was pitiful. Thank goodness my preaching professor was not around with his checklist! The good news is that as we grow and develop as pastors, our people are able to see God’s work in our life first hand. They are able to walk this journey with us and see the sanctifying work of Christ in our life and ministry. This journey speaks louder than any sermon we could ever preach.
After trying on Saul’s armor, David quickly recognized that he could not be anyone other than who God created him to be. He ditched the armor and went into battle trusting God to carry him through. As we enter the daily battle of pastoral ministry, we need to trust that God has specifically called and equipped us to “fight the good fight of faith.” Pastor, be who God created you to be!