As I write this, I’m in Victoria…for a work trip! I haven’t had one of those in a few years, but I’m here with 15 other “mid-career” pastors from across Canada in our Baptist General Conference. Applying “mid-career” to myself is a bit of a tough pill to swallow. I’m in denial. But that’s besides the point. These few days are to build relationships and begin to plot the course of our denomination for the next 5-10 years.
Before I left, one of our leaders texted and said he was praying that despite all the good things happening at The Bridge, that God would protect me from pride. That I would be kept from having a big head as I hang out with other pastors and leaders. He’s praying that because God is blessing The Bridge. We experience that week after week, we see it as the place fills up and people are filled with joy and passion for the Lord. I feel so grateful for what’s taking place. I know not every church is experiencing that.
But in the last 12 hours or so, I had a conversation with one guy who’s younger than me, teaches at a college, and had to blow out the walls of their sanctuary to make room for people. I had another conversation with an urban pastor who just had 20 baptisms on Easter Sunday. Another guy pastors a church with three services, two campuses, filled with 20 something year old future leaders, and he’s a published author. Another young pastor leads one of the largest churches in our denomination, complete with a 1000 student Christian school begun by the church. I had breakfast this morning with a pastor whose church has a vision to plant 40 churches in the next ten years. And you know what the result was? I went to bed last night feeling this overwhelming insecurity. I felt completely inept. I felt that when measured up against these articulate, spiritually passionate, deeply intelligent leaders, I just don’t stack up. I’m nothing. So pride? Ha! Looks like that’s been taken care of!
Except, of course, that the flip side of pride is this insecurity. Both place myself at the centre. Both are obsessed with figuring out how I compare to others- in one direction, positively, in the other direction, negatively.
On Sunday, for Easter, I preached on Romans 6:1-5. In those verses we read Paul reminding us that we who are in Christ have been crucified and resurrected. I cited Galatians 2:20, where Paul says that he no longer lives, but Christ lives in him. This is illustration #10,459 of how the preacher is usually the one who most needs to hear the sermon. I realized last night that my heart had come to this little retreat completely unprepared. That I had not spent time embracing the new identity that Christ has given me. I saw that my need right now is to die to myself. To die to a pursuit of my own glory and name, and the despair that comes when glory and fame do not.
If God has called me to The Bridge, I might feel completely unworthy of that. I might question my own giftedness. I might feel like I don’t stack up. But what does that matter? That’s not my concern. My life is His, He bought me with a price. I no longer live, but He lives in me. If He calls me, uses me, speaks through me, wonderful. And He can do that to whatever extent He wants. But that’s not my prerogative. My only job is to be faithful. My life is in His hands. I have died and have been raised again.
I have often cited Dwight Moody, who said that the issue with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar. Dying to self is not just a one-time decision, it is a daily discipline. It is something we need to continually do.
In what way is Jesus asking you to die to yourself today and be raised to new life in him?