It is hard to overstate the importance of functional awe of God to your ministry. Awe of God is one thing that will keep a church from running off its rails and being diverted by the many agendas that can sidetrack any congregation.
Awe of God puts theology in its place. Theology is vitally important, but our awe of theology is dangerous if it doesn’t produce practical awe of God. Awe of God puts the ministry strategies of the church in their proper place. We don’t put our trust in strategies, but in the God of awesome glory who is the head of the church. Awe of God puts ministry gifts and experience in their proper place. I cannot grow arrogant and smug about my gifts, because unless those gifts are empowered by the glorious grace of the God I serve, they have no power to rescue or change anyone. Awe of God puts our music and liturgy in its proper place. Yes, we should want to lead people in worship that is both biblical and engaging, but we have no power to really engage the heart without the awesome presence of the Holy Spirit who propels and applies all we seek to do. Awe of God puts our buildings and property in their proper place. How a building is constructed, maintained, and used is very important, but buildings have never called or justified anyone—-only a God of awesome sovereign grace can do so. Awe of God puts our history and traditions in their proper place. Yes, we should be thankful for the ways God has worked in our past, and we should seek to retain the things that are a proper expression of what he says is important. But we don’t rest in our history—-only in the God of glory who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Our generation must be committed to commend God’s works to the next generation so that they may be rescued by and motivated by a glory bigger than the typical catalog of glories they would choose for themselves.
Hope for the Awe-Numb
It’s very hard to preach and shape the ministry of the church this way if familiarity has produced blindness that effectively robs you of awe of God. It is very difficult to give away what you do not possess yourself. In ways you do not always realize, your ministry is always shaped by what functionally controls your heart. If you are more motivated by the awe-inspiring experience of having the esteem and respect of the people around you, you will do ministry in a way that is structured to get that respect, even though you probable aren’t aware of it. If your heart is ruled by the awesome power that comes from controlling the people and situations around you, you will work in your ministry to be in control. If your heart is more ruled by fear of man than by fear of God, you will build a ministry that erects walls of protection and a moat between your public persona and your private life. If your heart is more moved by the awe-stimulating experience of being theologically right than it is by an awe of God who lives at the center of all that theology, you will be a theological gate keeper who does not pastor messy people well. If your heart is ruled by envy over the awe-inspiring ministry of another, you will minister out of a debilitating dissatisfaction with the situation and location of your calling.
Remember, your ministry is never just shaped by your gifts, knowledge, skill, and experience. It is also shaped by the condition of your heart. This is why it is important to acknowledge that local church ministry is one big glory war. In every situation, location, and relationship of your ministry, there is a war going on for what glory will magnetize your heart, and therefore, shape your ministry. There is a war going on between the awe of God and all the awe-inspiring things that God created. Awe of God will capture you and your ministry, or they will be captured by some kind of created awe. Any glorious thing in creation was given that glory by God so it would function as a finger, pointing you to the one glory that should rule your heart—-him.
Many pastors become awe-numb, awe-confused, or get awe-kidnapped. Many pastors look at glory and don’t see glory anymore. Many pastors are just cranking out weekly because they don’t know what else to do. Many pastors preach a boring, uninspiring gospel that makes you wonder why more people aren’t sleeping their way through it. Many pastors are better at arguing fine points of doctrine than they are at stimulating divine wonder in you. Many pastors seem more stimulated by the next ministry vision or the next step in the strategic plan than they are by the stunning glory of the grand intervention of grace into sin-broken hearts. The glories of being right, successful, in control, esteemed, and secure often become more influential in ministry than the awesome realities of the presence, sovereignty, power, and love of God. Many pastors have lost their awe and either don’t know it or don’t know how to get it back. What about you?