For more reading on long-term faithfulness in ministry with practical wisdom from veteran pastors, see Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime from The Gospel Coalition.
In this video, Dan Doriani shows how a pastor’s humility in regard to his gifting affects his ministry capacity.
The following is a lightly edited transcript provided by a transcription service. Please check video before quoting.
What I’d like to say first is you’re capable, you’re gifted, you’ve been called, you’ve been recognized as someone who’s a ministry leader, maybe ordained, maybe called to a staff. Which means that what you need to do is accept that you don’t have every gift, you’re gifted but you don’t have every gift. A lot of criticism comes from people who say, ‘oh, this ministry worker isn’t good at this’ which is correct, nobody is good at everything. So the first thing I want to say is don’t look at the negative, look at the positive, you’re gifted, you’ve been recognized as gifted. And I would say broadly speaking in the Bible we would notice there are three main offices; prophet, priest, and king that line up very well with ministry work.
So prophets are teaching and preaching, applying the word of God, and bringing the truth of God’s people. A priest cares for people and maybe prays with them one on one, meets with them in time of need, offers them concrete aid and a king leads the enterprise. So if you’re a young ministry worker pastor or someone else in ministry I would say to you try to figure out which one of these three is your dominant gift and then maybe which is number two and accept the fact that no one is good at all three, that includes you. So only one person that was really good at all three, it’s Jesus and you’re not Jesus so accept that you aren’t going to be good at everything and try to develop your skill so that you’re valued for your capacities and your contribution.
The classical answer to finding your gifts is essentially something like this; see what you want to do, see what people ask you to do, see we get asked to do over and over again by people who actually know the way the world works. If someone asks you to do something and they’re desperate it doesn’t count, if you’re asked to do something once and you’re never asked to do it again it doesn’t count but what you’re asked to do over and over again by people who know. Let’s not forget to bring the Lord into this, the Lord will give you mentors who have a skill set that you’re attracted to and they may have a little time in their schedule or there’ll be a need that suddenly appears and so wade into that if you possibly can if you think maybe maybe that’s something I can do.
So my first point is yes, you will face the fire of criticism but develop, hone, and rejoice in the gifts God’s given you. And then sort of side two would be that you are going to be criticized, every pastors criticized and the more visible you are the more criticism you face. If you’re criticized you’re in the company of Moses who was appointed by God and led the people out of Egypt and people still said, ‘Hey, who do you think you are to lead God’s people?’, God appointed Moses and yet they’re complaining that you know you’ve irrigated authority yourself and you brought us out into the desert. And of course Jesus was criticized and Paul was criticized and the heroes of the faith, Augustine, Calvin, and Luther, you’re in good company.
But let me say it a different way, in my ministry I had a large church for a number of years and we had three sportscasters in our church and one of them was local and you know announced for our local baseball team, everybody loved him he’s a wonderful man and he never had any problems or virtually never. But the other two were national and they would do things like announce NFL football games and Major League Baseball games like the World Series and the Super Bowl and they were criticized so harshly that one was criticized for being too intellectual, too opinionated, not friendly enough and the other was criticized for being flippant, sarcastic, jovial, and insubstantial. And you know both of these men are fantastically intelligent, hardworking, and well-prepared so why were they criticized? Well, at the end of the game somebody makes a great defensive stop in the end zone, ‘It’s a great play by the Patriots!’ and then the people who root for the other team say why do you hate my team? Well why were they criticized? They were criticized for doing their job, for being an announcer, and whoever was the announcer who announced with enthusiasm some game changing play was bound to be criticized.
So if you’re a minister you are bound to be criticized and the more visible your work is the more you’ll be criticized. But take heart God’s called you, God’s equipped you, you have skills, you’re going to hone them, don’t let the critics get you down.