One of the greatest privileges of my early ministry was to become acquainted with a man named Jim Petersen. Through his capable leadership and sterling character, the ministry of the Navigators expanded greatly in São Paulo, Brazil, where he and his wife, Marge, served for more than twenty years.
Cynthia and I first met Jim and Marge at Glen Eyrie, the Navigators’ headquarters in Colorado Springs. I was new to ministry at the time—and far too naive—and I was looking for some type of formula for success in God’s service.
“How do you do it, Jim?” I asked him. “Tell me the secret of ministering to people.” I expected him to say, “Always set the pace,” or, “Be strong no matter what,” or, “Model the truth, and stand against the adversary as he attacks you.” I got none of that.
Jim just smiled in his inimitable, casual way and answered, “Chuck, let people see the cracks in your life, and you’ll be able to minister to them.”
That’s it. That’s the distilled essence of all he told me.
As we left their cabin that cool evening, I felt somewhat like the deflated, rich young ruler, who had just asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life (Mark 10:17). Like Jesus’s surprising answer to the ruler, Jim’s reply was not what I expected. Frankly, it convicted me. I was looking to minister from my strengths. Jim challenged me to serve in weakness.
He made that statement to me over fifty years ago, and it remains one of the greatest lessons I have learned in ministry. I have never forgotten it.
I never will.
Our culture is overly impressed with the externals. You must look good on TV to win the political race. It’s the image you need to polish. Spin it just right.
(Image from Pixabay)
But we all know—and all have seen—that a leader without character is a tragedy getting ready to happen.
As pastors, we know about the importance of character, of course. But knowing it isn’t our assignment. Your congregation requires your character. Your role is filled because character is present, or it decreases if it is absent.
It’s the same with me. The church where I serve as senior pastor has a respect for me and appreciates my efforts (all my weaknesses not withstanding).
But this respect hangs on the fact that I’m committed to modeling character, and I’m not going to let it slip away in the stuff of leadership.
I remember the day my dad drove home and the front windshield of our car was broken. He had blood running down his face and I thought, He’s been mugged!
You may be facing what could be an unsolvable problem. You alone know what it is. If so, let me encourage you this week. Often the situations with no human answers form the basis upon which God does some of His best work—even in the lives of His messengers.
(Image from Unsplash)
This is illustrated beautifully in the life of Job.
I know, I know . . . we’ve all preached on Job. Personally, as pastors, we tend to flip the page when his name comes up. We’re too familiar with his story.
The account of his misery has become common and—may I say it?—boring. I mean, what else does this sad, suffering saint have to teach us?