Everyone wants to be number 1, top dog, head honcho. We are supposed to climb the corporate ladder. We are not to be satisfied being a vice president when there is a Chief Executive Office position available. Actors want to direct, singers want to be producers, defensive coordinators want to be head coaches, and the sixteen year old working the drive through window wants to be the night manager. We grew up wanting to be Batman, not Robin.
So we dress for the job we want, not for the job we have. We showcase our talents as often as possible. We try to get noticed so when the next opportunity for a promotion arises, we will be at the top of the list. This is how we are supposed to work, right? Well…
I am convinced the best thing an associate pastor can do is choose to be an associate. When I share this advice many associates will quickly balk, “I was not called to ministry to be an associate. God called me to lead a congregation. I’m just putting in my time as an associate because I was appointed to it, my denomination requires it, or I couldn’t find a position as a lead. But I’m supposed to be a lead pastor.” Reread the last sentence. Notice how I-centered it is.
When I hear this kind of push back, I try to reframe the issues. I ask the other to put aside their denominational issues, their career issues, and their frustration with the system under which they serve, and answer these questions: Why has God put you in your current position with your current congregation? How can you best serve Christ by serving that church? The answers don’t always come easy. They have not been seeing their situation through that lens. My goal is to get the other to hear the call they have right now, and choose it.
John the Baptist is a great example of this. From the start of his ministry he asserted he was not the messiah. He told his followers he was not worthy to carry the sandals of the one to come (Matthew 3:11 CEB). He compared himself to the best man in a wedding party as opposed to the groom – new meaning to “always the bridesmaid…” (John 3:29 CEB). He talked about being thrilled that Jesus was receiving more followers than he. Then he says this amazing sentence, “He must increase and I must decrease” (John 3:30 CEB). John knew the role to which he was called. He was number two.
I believe there is far too much ego in ministry these days among associate pastors, lead pastors, youth pastors, worship pastors, staff members, and more. Many of us are trying to build a name for ourselves by being the next megachurch founder, best-selling author, touring musician, etc. We are looking for the next big ministry, and not choosing to serve where we are called right now. When it comes right down to it, we are all called to follow John’s example – increasing Christ and decreasing ourselves.
You may not be called to be a career associate as I have, but it is your call for now. Choose to be an associate of the church you serve. Chose to minister to the people in front of you. Choose to be number 2. You are anyway. Jesus is number 1. You will be much happier and more effective when you do.
For a humorous take on ego in ministry, check out @Celebrity Pastor on Twitter.