You say it to yourself all the time. “It’s not my ministry. It’s all about God. I’m just a vessel living out His story for my life.”
Problem is, you don’t believe it. I don’t believe it. None of us in our fallen state believe it. Soon enough, the proof will be painfully evident in your thought life. And it won’t be the last time.
Five years from now, you will be told that your communication skills are fantastic, that you are changing many lives, that the world would be a better place if only we could get you on CNN, that politicians could learn from you, and so on. It’s heady stuff.
You’d never say it aloud, but you begin to think, “My talks have hit a whole new level. I’m connecting with people big time.” Indeed you are. Your content and delivery are exceptionally good. So good, a national radio ministry picks up one of your talks and broadcasts it nationally. Three months later, you hit the banquet and conference circuit. You’ve arrived!
And so has pride, undetected. Ever so slowly, your attitude shifts. You congratulate yourself for building your ministry platform the right way. You did your time mastering the pro-life position before taking the stage. Unlike celebrity speakers who sell personality over content, your talks have take-home value. People leave equipped to engage! And why shouldn’t they? You cut your teeth engaging tough audiences in Catholic and Protestant high schools and can answer objections in your sleep. Instead of a rambling monologue, you communicate ideas with razor sharp clarity. You’ve read the major players on both sides of the debate and can, on command, summarize their arguments in a short paragraph that rolls effortlessly off your tongue. That celebrity speaker doesn’t have a clue about any of that. Nor does he care. He just collects hefty speaking fees for dialing-in a standard stump speech, if you can even call it a speech. It’s really just a poorly constructed testimony with zero take-home value. People are really dumb not to see that.
In fact, dumb people are starting to get on your nerves. You love the applause from your keynote address, but resent talking to lay people afterwards. Sure, the adoring fans are great, but not everyone acknowledges your gifting. At every pro-life banquet, there’s a guy in his mid 60s who’s going to lecture you for 20 minutes (and longer if you let him) on his strategy to end abortion. He’s got it all figured out. If only pro-life leaders would listen. You put on a nice face and pretend to follow, but inside you think, “This bozo is clueless. He doesn’t have a day’s worth of experience as a pro-life apologist, but he’s telling me how to do my job! Nice.” When he finally winds down, two others ask why you didn’t talk about contraception. Don’t you know it’s the root cause of abortion? Another guy wants to know why you didn’t say more about the gospel. After all, the only way we’ll end abortion is to preach it. And why didn’t you call abortion “murder?” God does. And could you please use the term “pre-born” instead of “unborn?” We’re losing this debate because pro-lifers use the wrong language. When you finally escape for your car, a talkative grandmother follows you out. “I won’t keep you because I know you must be tired, but you’ll be blessed hearing about my daughter’s pro-life story and how our granddaughter got here.” You stand there in the cold holding your keys and box of books and once again pretend to listen even though you could tell the story for her you’ve heard it so many times. Nevertheless, she recounts every last detail of how her grandbaby was born six weeks premature, how early-on the doctor warned of Down’s Syndrome, and how the baby was born just fine and is now a straight-A student at the local elementary school. And, oh, can she sing! “Imagine the tragedy if such a beautiful and gifted child was never born! Isn’t that a great pro-life story?” Inside, you can’t imagine a worse one. Granny is clueless. The pro-life argument is not that abortion is wrong because it deprives us of budding scholars and gifted little singers. Rather, abortion is wrong because it intentionally kills an innocent human being, regardless of his or her gifting, intelligence, or level of development. How could she miss that? Was she daydreaming during your talk? Fifteen minutes later, she wraps up by saying your speech would be so much better if you included her daughter’s story. Driving back to your hotel, you think, “Why do I put up with this drivel?”
The next day you preach three services at First Baptist Jacksonville where you passionately contend for the intrinsic dignity of all human beings regardless of age or ability. You crush it and are swamped after each service, especially the last one. You artfully dodge another strategist, but a poet blindsides you with a letter she’s written from an imaginary unborn child to an imaginary, aborting mother. She drones on about how God told her to write it and how it will change hearts if she could just get the word out. The letter has a cringe factor of ten. You’re polite, but can’t wait to roundfile it. Up next is an aspiring singer who wants to chat about his “pro-life” song. He’s ready to perform it for you, though you wish he wouldn’t. You’re spent and have a plane to catch. But he’s already tuning his guitar. You aren’t going anywhere. You brace for eight minutes of pure awfulness. The song is even worse than you imagined.
You thank him for sharing it, but drive away ticked. “Did these rookies listen to a single word of my presentation? Obviously not, because if they had, they’d go home and burn their poems and songs until they’d learned a thing or two. No wonder our side is losing. We’ve got amateur hour on full display! Can we call-in the pros now?” In your arrogance, you forget the poet and the singer love the unborn every bit as much as you do. And unlike millions of other church goers, they actually care enough to do something about it. Instead of affirming their laudable concern, you secretly ridicule their imperfect efforts to stop the killing.
Funny, your own early projects—equally cringe-worthy—are the farthest thing from your mind.
A month later, your pride hits overdrive. You’re invited to speak to 600 students at a major Christian conference but flirt with turning it down because you are not the keynote speaker. A testimony speaker is. She’ll get 7,000 people and have the main stage. You will lead a breakout session with substantially less. True, as your influence grows, you will kindly decline events where your time could be maximized elsewhere, but that is not the case here. There is no alternate event. You are not overworked and in need of rest. And the pay is more than adequate, especially for a breakout session. Normally, you’d jump at 600 students. Instead, you hesitate. If you are brutally honest, the problem is not that 600 students is beneath you; it’s that the testimony gal gets 7,000 to your 600. You’re just as good as she is, right? In fact, you are better. Why didn’t the conference host ask you to keynote the event? After all, you earned your ticket out of breakout Hell twenty conferences ago.
Remember what C.S. Lewis said? “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only having more of it than the next man.” As a result of thinking too highly of yourself, you are dangerously close to blowing off 600 students who desperately need pro-life apologetics training—students you’d gladly engage if the testimony speaker weren’t around.
Meanwhile, you’re still ticked at the poet and singer for giving the pro-life cause a bad name.
Back home, you quit volunteering at church. Help with Trunk or Treat? You resent the request. Don’t people understand you have a national ministry to run? You already work hard enough. Someone else can do the local stuff.
Things get really ugly when you snap at your admin assistant and make her cry. Why did she book you for that small private school in Cody, Wyoming instead of the national apologetics conference in DC? What was she thinking? If an event doesn’t raise your platform, she shouldn’t be scheduling it!
That last sentence stops you dead in your tracks.
Whose story is this?
See part 1 here.